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

Monday, March 22, 2010

If I could rule the world . . .

Another Paddy's Day under our tightened belts and I have slowly come to realise there are only a few weeks of procrastination left. Faced with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because the 'end is nigh' I am plagued with the question 'What will I do for four  months?' Will my brain turn to mush because I will stop academically abusing it and allow myself to read for pleasure and maybe even watch a little chewing gum telly!

I suppose, seeing as I have come this far, it is safe to say that life as a mature student is not all that bad. The fear of the unknown (if I actually had a brain and whether or not it might be operational) has subsided and a whole lot of other fears have jumped in to fill that empty void. The fear of failure.

Summer exam timetables have been posted and although I only have three exams (German/Spanish/English Literature) the dry mouthed anxiety is creeping into my (mushy) brain and I have a feeling it will be making itself at home for the next 45 days until summer break begins. 

It is not like I have missed that many classes (almost none actually) and the reality is I have handed in all assignments on time and the grades are not too shabby. I think it is a clear case of 'Keeping up with the Joneses'. You know, the group of pals you hook up with when you attend University. You drink endless amounts of caffeinated (or alcoholic OR even better caffeinated alcoholic) drinks with them and discuss your next crises on a daily basis. 

My mother has a great saying that she has preached to me for the last 21+ years (hey, if Rory thinks I am still twenty one, then I am playing that card as long as I can!)

 'Show me your company and I will tell you WHO you are'. 

Well Mother, you can rest assured that the friends I have magnetised with are no longer plying for the pass, but wondering exactly what grade is needed to get honours and 1st distinction...Yikes!

I suppose (in this case) peer pressure is not a bad thing after all! I mean if all the others are aiming that high maybe it is time to review my outlook on life and step it up a little? I have always had low expectations of myself., I know, but it is easy this way. If I set my expectations on med-low, then I am (and have been) rarely disappointed in life. But now, perhaps, it is time to grow up a little and actually achieve a little more. Maybe even start to think that I am capable of more. (Damn, that last birthday pushed me over the edge).

Knowing that setting higher expectations for myself can lead to disastrous devastation if I do not obtain that grade or publish that piece, but I am still a very easy-going kind of gal, so I reckon: 

Although there have been a few weird casualties this semester and I have had to spend a lot longer mulling over my future subject choices (because I love both German/Spanish and have to drop one in September) at least I have that to complain about. Things at home have settled down and although they do not like my mental absence (or my physical absence for that matter) they are dealing with it in a loving way - by pulling more than their own weight. (Be it little, I am thankful).

Knowing that my family are keeping a close eye on me (and my grades - yes Mother, I am talking about you) keeps the pressure on, and will hopefully scare me straight out of the procrastination chair and right into the studious one.

That said, with all of us having some time off at Easter, I hope to flood your inboxes with a few current photos of the kids and Chef at play as we fire up the pizza oven, cut the grass and make room for a few more chicks n' hens in our coop!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers...Garth Brooks

I fell in love and married a man like Willy Vlautin. Last week, when we had a surprise-visit from this songwriter/novelist, the world stood still for seventy two minutes of class time, and I fell in love – all over again.

The soft spoken sexy southern drawl of Willy Vlautin mesmerised most of the ladies in the class. He sat calmly in his chair making selective eye contact with his silent audience as he shared secrets to his success. “Do what you like” was the first message he shared with us, because if you are not doing what you like, then it is just ‘work’.

Hailing from Reno, Nevada, Willy grew up being a huge fan reading novels from a very young age. He cited Raymond Carver as one of the Author’s whose work he would have admired over the years and loved how he sounded ‘like my weird drunk Uncle whispering stories in my ear’.

Willy is the songwriter for his band (just finished touring Europe) Richmond Fontaine. Over the years as his writing would ebb and flow, so would the success of the band. When he was depressed and writing a stack of bad stories, his band would suffer because of this. Just when things would get grim, he managed to write a great catchy song that kept the fans coming back for more.

In order to keep cash coming in and still have time to write, Willy let his writing become more important than financial gain. Having dipped his hand in several job entities (house painter, warehouse employee) he would sometimes get up at 5am to write for a few hours before going to work. Mornings are his favourite time to write when his head is clear and all the ideas flow faster. Weekends never seemed like a good time to attempt getting a lot done because he felt the need to be social (being in a band could do that to a guy) and let’s face it, not many of us want to sit tapping on the typewriter on a Friday evening at 6pm when it is happy hour everywhere!

So humble, Willy has a deeply personal connection to his work. It took him damn near fifteen years to send in his novel for consideration. He mentioned that meeting his agent was like ‘a gift from God’ and not only did she take his novel on board she ‘figured out how to sell it’.

Even after the success of all his novels, Willy remains humble and has an attractive modesty about how great he is. Admitting that he is very comfortable writing in his own world, as it makes him feel safe. He knows it and its characters ‘real well’.

Hating the faults and errors on the typewritten page, Willy purchased his first computer after finding a large sum of money out in the Nevada desert one night. Although it took him more than a year to stop looking over his shoulder in case the local mafia came looking for it, purchasing a computer changed the way he felt about his writing. He no longer had to be distracted by all the ‘mistakes’ on the page. This, I think, was the turning point for Willy himself. It is possible he obtained a glint of confidence in his own work. Just enough to make him fabulous.

And that my dear readers, is what he is.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,


Sunday, March 14, 2010

“Actually, I am hung-over, and I forgot to bring my props”... Olaf Tyaransen

“Actually, I am hung-over, and I forgot to bring my props”... Olaf Tyaransen

An honest way to greet a classroom full of eager creative writing students. Rambling on through the first half of our hour with Olaf Tyaransen, both he and the rest of the class wondered when he would get finished reciting his Wikipedia page entry and get down to some of the nitty gritty details of his glamorous job as a novelist and long standing writer for Hotpress ( I’ve heard it stated that in order to reap the financial rewards in journalism you have to have one hell of a work ethic and a huge ego. After meeting Olaf Tyaransen, I am not sure there is any ego left to go around.

Lesson number one: Persistence

Expelled from school before sitting his leaving cert, Olaf managed to make a name for himself by doing something that he loved. He reviewed bands and sent the unsolicited reviews to his local rag. They did not want them but eventually, they started paying him ten pounds a review. With a lengthy laundry list of ‘famous people interviewed by Olaf’ under his buckle, I would say persistence, paid in full.

Lesson number two: Pleasure

An avid legislator for legalisation of Cannabis in the nineties, and still an avid smoker of the weed, this poet did not mince words when it came to bragging about how great he is. With no academic education to fall back on, Olaf was given a taste of what life ‘could be like’ when he was flown on his first press junket to New York City. He was only twenty one years of age. Doing what you love, paid in full.

Lesson number three: Gobshite of the Year award goes to?

This one is quite easy folks; it would never be awarded to the talented Mr. Tyaransen. He can write, he is passionate enough to put his money where his mouth is (working for free), he ran for elected office, because he believed in something and was not afraid to stand up for that belief no matter what the outcome – he took a chance!. He does not care what we (or the rest of the universe) think about him. All he cares about right now is his next big story (hopefully with David Bowie), finding warmer digs in Cuba and possibly having a few more kids.

Be bold, write with ego. If you do not think you are great, no one else will!

(on a side note, as of January 2010, David Bowie is looking fine. Maybe a little puffy – but for a 62 yr old man not too bad!)

That is all the WiseWords I have for today!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Gourmet Lovers Guide to Galway and the surround!

Joes Café

The Dell Centre

Lahinch, Co. Clare

(less than 75km from Galway City)

Tel - 353 65 7086113

Email -

Between a rock and a hard place is where you will find one of my favourite cafés in Ireland. Tucked away in the centre of Lahinch town, Joes Café serves up some pretty amazing grub at recessionary rates! Over the past two years I have stopped into this coffee lovers paradise more than ten times and each time (being a sceptic) I expect it to be ‘not as good’ as the last visit, because that is usually what happens to all the good restaurants and cafés.

Virgins to the business, new restaurant owners dream big and bright, throw their love and money into getting their ‘dream’ up and running, then realise (after they have lured loyal followers) that it is impossible to make money in the industry unless you sell out, serve slop on a plate, hire untrained employees, pay them minimum wage and have them run the operation.

The owner, Joe McCarthy, is obviously stark raving mad because he has dug his heels in and it seems like he is in for the long haul. On a recent visit as I was strolling around Lahinch town (mid –winter, so it might have been more like a brusque walk), I asked several of the psycho winter-surfer dudes what they thought of Joes Café and the response was unanimous. Unequivocally the best spot for decent coffee in Lahinch (serving one of my favourite grinds Lavazza) and best vegetarian menu too!

A splash of California sunshine spills all over the walls, windows and tables inside Joes Café and the minute you enter this cosy nook, you are welcomed by appetizing smells and a very friendly staff. The menu is not your typical Irish menu and has items like Moroccan Stew (vegerarian), enormous field green salads topped with a piece of fresh fish (Joe being the fisherman), the blue-germ banana pancakes with baileys whipped cream, and the big-boy beef burger for the big boys! All these might tickle those taste buds, but I am fairly certain that the majority of patrons are there because of one item. The Pizza! Making his dough from scratch, and having invested heavily in his pizza oven, those thin crusted pizza pies topped in any which way you please are more appealing to the eye and senses than anything else for miles around, miles I tell you.

Of course there are a gazillion other menu items that will tempt you. If you sit and wait for a while, studying what everyone else is getting you will surely regret it, because everything arrives out to the tables promptly, piping hot (or temperature appropriate) and with a smile.

With nothing on the menu topping thirteen euros, conceivably one could graze there all day long, tapping away on ones laptop, taking a break to oogle a few surfers or pinch the cheeks of a fat baby next to you. Once ready to leave the comfort of Joes Café (and already plotting your next visit) the best thing to do is reflect on what brought you to Lahinch in the first place.

A stroll along the seashore of Lahinch sweeps me away

Skies of liquid colour, mountains heave and sway.

A short drive from my hometown, of Galway by the sea

Lahinch in lovely Ireland, is my favourite place to be.

It is local, it is not too far from Galway

And it sure as heck feels like home to me!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Sunday, March 07, 2010

"I could have been a contender"...Roger Donoghue

Let me be frank. When it comes to commenting specifically on my writing career I hope I never utter those words. After a recent visit from Irish Times sports journalist Keith Duggan, I had a plethora of information set aside to mull over this weekend regarding the pros and cons of getting into journalism, in Ireland, today.

Although Mr. Duggan did not over glamorise his job and had a firm tone of ‘telling it how it is’, he managed to crack a few too many sarcastic smiles that gave enough information to those tuned in, that he really liked what he was doing.

Citing American sports journalist George Kimball as one of his favourite sports writers, Keith shared with us, a piece written by Kimball that was about the life of a former American welterweight boxer Roger Donoghue. An excellent example of sports journalism.

A young Irish boxer turned pro at 18 and prematurely retired at 21, Donoghue earned a few pennies serving as Marlon Brando's boxing instructor for the Movie 'On the Waterfront'.  On set one day, screenwriter Budd Schulberg  asked Roger if he could have become a champion had he stayed in the game. Roger’s reply was, “I could have been a contender.” Spoken by Brando’s character Terry Malloy, it became the most memorable line in the movie and is still quoted today.

Generous with his tips on how to get ahead in the industry, Keith reminded us (as with most things in life) it is ‘who you know’ that helps you get your foot in the door. His suggestion to literally pick up the phone and call the editor of the newspaper did not fall on deaf ears.

Adding to this, he encouraged my fellow classmates and I to start cutting and clipping anything we have published and tote it along to any meeting or interview we may land, as it is evidence that someone thinks we are worthy of having our name in print.

Although only a moment was spent on this topic, Keith is also the author of two GAA books and when questioned about his preference over journalism or writing a book, he spoke with a fond attachment for his books.

His first book, A Lifelong Season, is a glimpse behind the public face of the GAA and exposing what the organization means to people from the ground up, and the effect that the GAA has on people’s lives.

Keith’s second book ‘House of Pain’ is a book about the sorrowful mysteries of Mayo’s footballing history. Hailing myself from Mayo, I had to raid my neighbour’s book stand to flick through the pages of this one and have put it aside for summer reading! The very last sentence echoes the closing words spoken by Ted Kennedy in his keynote speech to the Democratic Convention in 1980 and it would certainly be apt to quote the full sentence as this will have special resonance for Mayo people: "... (the cause endures), the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

The few minutes of time we had with Keith flew by and as he wrapped things up it was something he said when asked about working with editors that remains engraved in my mind “you know you’re fucked when they change your first paragraph!”… Keith Duggan.

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Gourmet Lovers Guide to Galway and the surround!

The World is your Oyster
And Galway, is its home.

Nestled on the mouth of the Claren River, protected in the bay from the full force of Atlantic storms, Clarinbridge, County Galway is home to seven hundred acres of oyster beds. Ideal conditions mixing river water into the surrounding shallow seas, provides ideal breeding grounds vital for healthy oyster development.

Oyster culture in Ireland can be dated back to as early as the 13th Century which is how long these delicacies have been devoured. The Galway flat Oysters lost popularity in the early seventies when the demand for Giggas took over (a deep cupped oyster, preferred by our European counterparts). Backed by the government to ensure employment in remote coastal communities, Oyster farming gained huge momentum in the nineteen nineties and sold over 6,000 tonnes last year alone.

A connoisseur for many years, I always come back to the old native Galway Oyster for many reasons, the most important one being, that it is growing right here in my own back yard. Oyster culture is one of the most environmentally friendly types of farming I have encountered. Hungering for neither feed nor medication and touting a low (and sometimes negative) carbon footprint, these natural element feeders get everything they need from the unpolluted Irish waters.

The farmer’s task is to manage the density of the stock (by periodically sorting and grading) and help influence the shell shape. These flashy fish can filter over eleven litres of water per hour. They lounge about for eighteen months to three years on a steady diet of phytoplankton and salty water. Once cracked open and the fleshy meat is bared, it is the essence of the ocean that you taste.

With over 7,500 km of coast line rich in aquatic life, Galway holds court for producing the highest quality oysters in Ireland and in Western Europe. In 2000, Bord Iascaigh Mhara began to focus on producing the highest quality oyster in Europe and spent less energy focusing on quantities sold. Strong links were forged with France, who named us as a privileged partner in their countries Oyster production. The French with their wicked taste for finer foods send us their seedlings and here, in these fertile Irish Sea beds, we raise their offspring and sell them back to them two and a half years later. Plump and perfect!

A few years ago, whilst following my nose one day, I ended up in Cave. A little village near Clarinbridge and Maree, Oranmore. Whilst rock pooling with some friends we fell over a mammoth oyster and trust me when I tell you, I had never seen one that big!

I hunted down one of the locals named Billy Moran, and he told me that these Giants of the Sea are actually from Portugal. About 15 years ago, there was an arrangement between Galway and Portugal where we took the baby oysters from them and allowed them to grow in Irish waters for 18 months. Then, we sold them back to Portugal as Portuguese Oysters. (Sounds familiar doesn't it).

Anyway, things did not work out with Portugal, and the arrangement fell through about 6 years ago. Now, we are still left with some of these giants along our shores. Billy thinks that the ones we harvested are about three  or four years old. Imagine finding a ten year old??

The beauty of this location all views and vistas aside, is that here in County Galway, with wellies on and a bag slung over your shoulder, you can puddle your way on to the beach during low tide and have your pick of oysters, for free. Now that is something you do not see every day!

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,


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