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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Nollaig shona duit

I think that when homes are filled with squealing kids and huge messes of wrapping paper and batteries it is easy to forget 'what' Christmas is all about. 

For us here at Chez Wise, Christmas is all about the kids. 

Santa Claus came last night and left a plethora of toys n' trinkets. The noise level has reached a new high around here.

The Chef and I had a few quiet hours fireside this morning drinking coffee and listening to Christmas carols while waiting for the kids to wake up and tear into all the gift wrap.

Once they finally joined us in the living room some of them did not even notice the stack of carefully wrapped presents under the tree. 

I am not all that wild about the gift-giving tradition at Christmas time. I know that as a child we got Christmas presents but my memories do not revolve around any particular item I wanted or got.  My memories of Christmas are of all the time spent in our living room playing board games, eating boxes of sweets and tayto's and watching movies like 'The sound of music' and 'Chitty Bang-Bang'. 

Our meal was always the exact same. An elephant-sized turkey -- that was home-grown by our neighbour Nora -- an enormous country ham and all the traditional side dishes like brussel sprouts (cooked in the ham juice) carrot and parsnip mash, roast potatoes and mashed potatoes too (we are Irish after all). Dessert was the traditional Christmas pudding with warm custard and of course Christmas cake if you were so inclined. Dinner was eaten early right after high noon and the rest of the day was spent in a total tryptophan tizzy on the couch drifting in and out of a food-coma.

The evening 'tea-time' was always my favourite. 'Make-yer-own' sandwiches with a large loaf of batch bread and some leftover turkey giving a Mum the well earned break from cooking. 

We are making and creating our own family-memories for our kids now and although I am living less than a half mile from where I grew up I am amazed at how different their lives are. The world has changed so much in the past twenty odd years and no matter how hard we try to raise them to be non-materialistic, kids want what other kids have. Stuff. 

Becoming foster-parents this year has taught us so much about how much excess 'stuff' we have and how little others have. The kids (including our own) have taught us how to be better parents. We want for less and we give more of our time and energy and our love. 

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas. I am so grateful to all of you for logging on and reading-laughing-crying-commenting on my crazy little stories. Adjusting to a new family-dynamic here at Chez Wise has been made all the easier knowing you are out there, tuned in and willing to share in the chaos!

So a great big THANK YOU to you all and Merry Christmas! 
Here's to a wonderful and prosperous New Year!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today from a very sunny and frosty Galway where the house is quiet and toasty and all the squealing kids are outside with the Chef!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rosy in the garden

Eh - not really actually. 

You know, writing or blogging can be something that consumes me on a daily basis. Even if I am not sitting at the computer staring at a blank screen the words are rolling around somewhere. 

They might be in my head, they might be on the creases of a pillow case as I iron, they might be stuck behind the lower part of a chid's ear where you have to check because they seem to think it is not necessary to clean that body part. 

The words are always there and it is just a matter of time before I can reel them in, organise them a little and allow them to tell the story. Sometimes, I get in a flither about something (mad at the chef or the kids or ANYONE) and I want to get on the laptop and rant my heart out on the page, but I am 'thinking' horrible thoughts and words so I have to step away from the keyboard and take a walk. Get it out of my system; Sleep on it - even. 

I have been on holidays from college for one week. During that week I have accomplished absolutely nothing (or so I have been told) and seem to have 'running around like a chicken with my head cut off' 
down to a fine art. 

I have came and went. I have fed and cleaned up. I have dropped off and picked up. I have laughed and I have cried. I have fed animals, bathed animals, taken lovely photos of animals, walked my (chunky) little neglected dog, cooked and catered for my very very neglected husband, played with my kids every day (as opposed to chasing after them and discipling them for something) and yet - nothing has been accomplished.

No Christmas cards have been posted (hell not even printed), the laundry pile has reached is maximum peak allowed and the grumbling from my (almost always) tolerant chef has started. 'What have you been doing all day?' 'Do you know how much I can accomplish in six hours at work each day?' 'What are you going to get done today?' These are the questions he hurdles at me whilst complaining over the nice breakfast-in-bed he was eating this morning. 

God, why did I spoil him so? Well, we all know why - he rocks. He is a calm person. And I am not. As a matter of fact, I am the complete opposite of calm. I wake up early every morning (6am - my whole life) and I like to have an hour of reading and coffee drinking before the rest of the house wakes up. Hence the breakfast toting for the chef. 

He is letting me go back to college and fart around for an undetermined amount of years in order to follow my dream of someday becoming a writer and I suppose someday getting a job so he can retire. That is why I honest-to-God feel guilty when he starts nagging me. I feel like I should at least try to straighten up around here. I feel all these things. I am just lacking the serious motivation needed to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Once he goes to work, I start corralling at the kids to get organized, dressed and ready for school. And by corralling the kids I mean 'me screaming and shouting' and them racing around the house like chickens with their heads cut off looking for a shoe or pencil case that is most likely right where it should be - because I am organized, well sort of.

So I see the vicious circle. I see that if I remain quiet and calm then maybe they will too? Maybe if I duct tape my mouth closed and cannot yell and scream at them to get ready, then they will just line up like little ducks in perfect (neatly-dressed-faces-clean) order and they will be all lunches-packed and buckled-in by the time I turn the key in the ignition to take them to school.

Then, when I return home, because I have remained so 'calm' I will just swan in zen-like and tackle all the housework and have it done in FOUR hours before the chef gets home and I have to go pick up the wee ones from school.

And now, while I was waiting for that image above (about enjoying the silence) to upload, I clicked on my Google-homepage to read my daily horoscope:

My HoroscopeAstroSync

Although you are quite competent in how you analyze a project by separating it into manageable components, it's not necessary to make a big deal of what you are doing today. Fulfilling your commitments is important, but don't waste energy telling everyone how you developed your strategy. It's not important for others to know your inner process now; just focus on getting the job done.

Resistance is futile. I cannot help myself. EVEN my horoscope is telling me to 'get the housework done' and quit avoiding it....I bet Ron had something to do with this. That fucker.

Alright lads and lassies, Christmas is all but here. Is everyone else out there all ready with a clean house and every stitch of clothing in their house all washed, dried, ironed, folded and put away?

If you are, then please please please do not by any means comment on that fact. My husband may use it as evidence against me in my next 'excuse' battle.

A bah humbug kind of day, methinks.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today folks.............freezing but really pretty outside so going out to take some more photos of the birdies!


Thursday, December 09, 2010

These are a few of my favourite things...

This time of year I get lonely. I can't help it. It is Christmas time and that is how I feel. Dad was buried on Christmas Eve. Eleven years ago. I am still bitter over the fact that he is not here with us. I suppose as the years trickle by I am coming to terms with it. Maybe, eventually, I will understand why he had to die at the age of 50 and leave my Mum and the rest of us to figure out life, without him.

The kids were off school yesterday because of the holy day (December 8th -The Immaculate Conception of Mary; Wait a minute, if she conceived on Dec 8th, and gave birth on Dec. 24th, that is like a total gestation period of three weeks. Hello? I think this needs further investigating.) ... where was I , oh yes, kids off school etc. and they spent the day at Granny's (thank you Granny) because I had a German grammar exam. This was the hardest exam I have ever taken in my life. I felt sick afterwards for most of the drive home. That was, until I walked in the door and was greeted by this:

Note: The glass is almost as big as the bottle. 

Ok, now I am not swayed easily, but the Chef had opened one of my 'will-not-share-with-anyone bottles' so I decided to just sink into the sofa by the fire and let the cat curl up on my lap for an hour. He made dinner and the kids worked on jigsaw puzzles. On a side note: special thanks goes out to our friend Eric who carried all those bottles of 'never-will-be-shared-with-anyone-bottles' all the way from sunny California. Getting good yummy American wine here on the other WEST coast, is, well, impossible.

Back up for a minute. Did I say a CAT curled up on my lap? Yes, I said CAT. Well, kitten really. A Pretty Kitty lives next door and has decided, not unlike the rest of the animal population within a five mile radius, that our house is better than her house - so now we have a cat.

There I was, sinking into my glass, feeling sorry for myself when the Chef came in to keep me company and we started talking about sending out Christmas cards and who we might get to visit/see over the Christmas holidays. Cue the nostalgia and the teary eyed me. 

I went to bed early and woke up early in a bad mood. The kids, having hump day off, had forgotten how to tie their shoes/get their uniforms/could not find their school bags/denied ever letting the cat into their I raced them to school and decided to go for a nice brisque walk. It started to POUR RAIN. Heavy. It has been freezing and snowing here for 3 weeks. Today, a downpour.

I got soaked. I headed back to the car, to go to college and had to wait 45 minutes to find a parking place. Grrrrr. I made good use of my time though. I started to scroll through some photos taken over the last year and found so many reasons to lighten up and let go of the bitchy bad mood I was wallowing in.

Have a peek:

I love this photo because it shows so much love and tenderness. 
Annie (baby) was a foster baby that my Mum had 
(from her birth to 8 months old). 
She was recently adopted and even though we all 
(Becca and Sam in photo) miss her so much, 
we are happy that she is with a 
wonderful family and will have a great Christmas.

This is our newer - bigger family. 
Now, we have four kids.

I love that this photo popped up. 
It is bacon sizzling in the pan. 
I love bacon. 
Everyone in our house loves bacon. 
I am pretty sure we can't live without it.

Wow - how did we manage to corral 7 little kids for the entire month of June? 
We had HELP! 
See again in the photo one of my bff's Becca came to the rescue. 
There is no shame in asking for help.

Dear God. 

Catherine has been praying to you for a long time 
to fill her world with Grandchildren. 
I feel that you have overcompensated for taking Dad 
from her (way) too soon, and we all get it. 

You are sorry, we forgive you. 
NOW - enough with the kids already. 
I think we have enough! 

And - WOW - what a colourful bunch they are!

This (above) is a photo I took at Coole Park 
the week we moved back home to Ireland (2008). 

Everything about it.

Ok. I know. It is just eggs and toast. 
But the key here is that we have 
not had to BUY one egg since last April. 
We are really starting to live more sustainably. 
We still have potatoes, garlic and onions from 
the Chef's hard labour this past growing season. 

I am so proud of him., I know. 
Bite me.

Friends that travel far distances and
 play with our children, 
drink beer with us and then
 pass out on our couches. 
Those, are real friends. 
And we would be lost without you all. 

The Chef has nicknamed this photo 'The Ffrench Sandwich'. 
I love these girls. 
I can laugh, cry or scream with them 
and they just accept me for the 
overbearing-drama-queen that I am. 

They know all my durty durty secrets and still 
love me.

I love this photo. 
It is the promise of something yummy
that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Did I mention how proud I am of the Chef 
and all his hard work in the Garden?

Have you ever seen such 
a pretty bunch of Garlic?

I love that the best pint of Guinness 
the Chef has ever drank
was at the 'Gravity Bar' 
at the 
Guinness Museum 
in Dublin.

I LOVE that Jack 
looks so guilty. 

This photo speaks volumes about 
who this little boy is.

I will never be too old or 
too Wise to shout from the rooftops that


Enough said.

I love that when I park my car and 
walk onto the university campus each day, 
I pass by this archway. 
It leads in to the original University Quadrangle. 
So much has happened inside these walls. 
I can almost feel the words and the stories 
seeping out through the solid stone. 
I love school.  
I am such a late bloomer. 
What the hell.

I think that Rory could be on a Bennetton commercial. 
She is just that cute. 
This photo also represents who she is becoming. 
She wants to be a vet. 
On a side note, I took this photo earlier this summer. 
We were all sitting outside, near the hen coop 
waiting and watching for the baby ducks to hatch.  
It took hours. 
We passed the time by giving all 
the girls and Jack pedicures. 
Out there, in the hen poop filled yard, 
with a big basin of water and 
some nail polish. 

What are we like.

Ok, back to Rory and her hostess-with-the-mostess skills. 

When we explained to Rory and Jack 
that there were
 two little girls coming to 
spend a week with us
Rory wrote this little note on our
 'daily specials' 

That was 8 months ago. 
Now, they are an inseparable bunch 

 'The fabulous four!'

I am not materialistic. 
Not at all. 
HOWEVER, my handsome Chef 
bought me a shiny new camera 
for our ten year wedding anniversary 
and GAWD, I love my new toy. 
It is a Sony Nex-5. 
If anyone is thinking about buying 
a nice new camera, 
email me if you have any questions. 
I swear, it is awesome. 

This was a pure fluke-took-with-my-iPhone-camera photo. 
I was trying to get a photo of the Swan above them and SNAP! 
Look how (almost) angelic they look. 
What I love about this photo is the fact 
that they all have 
VERY different expressions. 

They - are our world. 

Can you tell?

There you have it. 
A little run down of reasons not to be miserable. 

It picked me right up out of the doldrums and 
reminded me that despite the fact that the whole world 
is experiencing a real shake-down

'Life is good'  

We are all happy and have our health. 

We need to stop asking for more, 
and be happy with what we have.
It is enough.

 I am certain that then, 
and only then 
will things start to improve.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Chilly Willy

We are experiencing The Big Chill here in Galway this week. Last year, right around the same time, we had a few weeks of rain and flooding. Nothing like it in fifty years around these parts, so they said. This year, coldest temperature ON RECORD with so much snow and ice the schools are closed. So, we are holding out for next year with the hopes that sweet November might bring a little sunshine. Climate change rampant on our little island. 

As luck would have it, a very dear friend has chosen this week to holiday with us. He lives in Los Angeles. Where everything is warm and sunny all year long. The last time he came to visit was during the month of April, and it was very warm and sunny. We drank beer outside every day. He was fooled by our schizophrenic weather. Now, the truth has been revealed. He is wearing gloves, a scarf and a hate and drinking mugs of tea to beat the band. Strange, but I think he kind of likes it.

Now, here is an interesting tidbit of information for y'all. Although there are a gazillion perks to living and working in Los Angeles, it seems there are a few things missing. For example, the restaurants do not serve good old fashioned (American) comfort food. No meatloaf, no chili. In an effort to provide a little slice of Irish-Americana home-cooking, we served up some chili for lunch yesterday. 

For my Island readers, Chili is like Shepherds Pie without the mash potatoes on top and like Bolognese with chili spice instead of tomato-basil sauce. You have absolutely NO VALID EXCUSE for not trying this recipe. AND if you have children they will be begging you for chili dogs every day!

You will need:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound ground beef 
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 cans diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can of Guinness (when in Rome)
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • Shredded cheddar cheese 
  • Another 2 large onions (sliced and diced)
  • Tabasco sauce (or your fav. hot sauce)
  • Hot dogs
  • Hot dog buns


  1. In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste, chili powder and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until mixture has begun to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add all meat, and cook, breaking it up with a spoon until nice and brown, about 5 - 8 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes with their juice, Guinness, and beans. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a rapid simmer. Cook over medium heat until chili has thickened slightly and beans are tender. We find that chili always tastes better the next day so allow it to cook for an hour (at least) then refrigerate overnight.
  4. To serve in a bowl sprinkle with cheese and raw onion and a dash of tabasco.
  5. You can serve it over spagetti if you want to make more of a meal out of it.

This is a very messy dinner for kids. BUT they love it. And it is jam packed full of protein with all the meat and beans, so very good for them. If you have trouble digesting beans then my suggestion is to make sure they are cooked very well.

A little side of fruit salad to tone down the heat is always a welcome relief at the table too!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,


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