New Normal Gifting

Eilish modeling my scarf

I could hear Eilish rustling papers in the larder and wanted to know what she was up to, she told me to stop being so curious. Next thing she arrives out with a brown paper parcel tied with yarn. It was for me! The scarf she’s been crocheting for two weeks is mine! I have been eyeing it up since the day she started and she must have noticed. A note fell out as I was opening it. A very funny note about these strange times and our little community.

Brown paper parcel

On Sunday my FenceChat neighbour Aileen put on her angel wings and sent some self-raising flour over the fence. In case you don’t know, flour, of any variety has been impossible to get in the online supermarket delivery. That’s ok I don’t need the extra calories but we were missing the creative possibilities. Eilish’s hidden break-the-rules tendency comes to the fore when she thinks about baking. She’s been scouring the cook books looking for a recipe to break. The contents of our larder has constrained her a bit but in spite of that yesterday she made apple and clove queen cakes and tomorrow she has promised raspberry buns. I will need to increase the number of 2km walks and I’m searching Youtube to find out how to let out my jeans.

We’re nearly finished the most difficult jigsaw on the planet

In other news, my mother told me a story that made me cry. There’s a school near her nursing home and this week lots of letters arrived from the children. My mother got one from a ten year old boy and she read it to me. It was adorable and as newsy as a ten year old boy can be but the line that got me was, “everyday on our way to school we wave at your home” I’m tearing up again now, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shared the story with Eilish and I couldn’t get past this line and again with Denis. It just doesn’t get old for me. I’m imaging the boy and his mother or it could be his granny driving him to school, maybe there’s a brother or sister and the adult is kind and she says, look here we are, start waving! Of course they’re not going to school at the moment so he waves in a letter. Isn’t that beautiful? I’m dribbling on the keypad. Oh and my mother has written back to him. She used her last stamp! Holy god, I’m in bits.

May you be well, Mairead.

Wounded and Sickly Ego in the Safe Cave


(All the pictures are from Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford, Co. Wicklow)

I took a week off blogging and I have great excuses, but It’s the excuse that stops me going back to blogging that I want (well, really don’t want) to write about now. So… in general I share on this blog the stuff that’s difficult for me. Normally, the sharing makes me uncomfortable up to a value of 7-ish (that’s out of 10, 10 being death by shame – of my ego.) But this post pushes the discomfort way up to a 9 or 9.5, so I’m feeling (or my ego is feeling) very sick. Like, vomit-inducing sick, so maybe you need to stand back….


(Path with gate… open the gate)

I had a heart-to-heart conversation last week with someone who shall remain nameless and reads every post I publish. She told me I wrote some nice things but I wasn’t practicing what I preached. First blow to my ego armour. Although wounded (ego, not really) I did realise she meant this as a compliment. Unfortunately, I was too caught up in the shame I didn’t ask which particular nice thing was I not practicing. Instead, I buckled under said shame. The shame of being thought of as someone who preaches, someone who thinks they’re better than others and someone who is being dishonest. Second, third and fourth blow. At that stage I though I might be mortally wounded, so a good time to protect my shame.


(Path with steps… get ready)

Right so, I figured the best way to protect my shame was to hide. Yep, that feels good. And I have a brilliant hiding idea – I’ll stop the writing. Grand, I can do that. Well, I’d have to because it was beginning to dawn on me that there was probably more than one nice thing I was preaching about and not practicing. Since (I think) I am writing about all the things I find difficult, it’s probably accurate to say that I’m not too good at practicing them. Ok, I’ll stop the writing.


(Grassy path… soft landing)

So to summarise, I’m talking then, I’m wounded, then mortally wounded, then I go off to hide, I sit in my little cave, safe and sound and everyone lives happily ever after. Not really. There’s a leeetle problem….. sitting in my safe cave I come to realise that the writing (this now potentially dangerous – to ego – activity) is one of my precious things… the things that are really precious to me, the things I really need to share. Oops.


(Winding path with no end in sight… trust)

I can’t stop the writing… and really, I don’t want to. Instead, I’ll have to come out of my safe cave. I’ll have to find a way to realise that the wounds aren’t real and they aren’t serving me. I’ll have to go out on the ledge, again… on my own.

Just to be clear:

I am telling you how things are for me.

I am not saying I can do this.

I am not saying you should do this.

I am not promising I won’t go back to hiding.

I am saying that practicing this might be too hard for me.

I am saying I’m going to take the first step and only then consider taking another step.

And lastly, I like heart-to-heart talks (even if my ego doesn’t) so the me (when she’s not protecting her ego) thanks the someone who shall remain nameless for giving me this insight. Really, thank you.

I’m not saying I’ll like the next heart to heart though, Mairead.

Cooking up a movie… kinda


(Food pictures from Italy are very inspiring so here’s some Italian pizza…)

The daughter is home for the week and we’re doing a little project I should have done many years ago – passing on the recipes. It’s where your mother shares the recipes all the things you loved to eat as a child. But we never did it. Partly because I’m a reluctant cook – don’t like it. And partly because of something I’m only now becoming aware of – I’m a bit of a control freak in the kitchen. As in, I think I know it all, I think I’m the only one who can cook properly. Oops.


(and Italian dessert…)

Now that might be why I’m a reluctant cook – I got tired of doing it on my own. Of course all that changed last year when I was attending the art course and I started to share the kitchen with the other food-eaters. But the daughter wasn’t here for that momentous happening, so I’m sharing the kitchen all over again with her.


(and Italian breakfast)

But she likes a bit of drama and she likes to film things so… she’s filming my sharing. You know how easy it looks on the television, some famous chef shows you how she made such and such a dish? Anyone could do it, right? Ha! No. Turns out it’s not that easy. But it is funny. Not at the time but when we look at the rushes (that’s technical for the unedited shooting) it’s hilarious… and not necessarily in a good way.


(Seen through a shop window in Venice, Italian paint pigments)

Well, maybe it is in a good way. Like today when I opened the parmesan as it was going into the dish and noticed it was turning an unhealthy shade of green. I looked at the daughter and she raised an eyebrow as I thought about blue cheese and nonchalantly picked out the worst of the green before deciding, not ok. But all the laughter seems to be helping the flavour and we are incredible nice to each other on camera. (Hmmm, interesting, that.) Maybe we’ll have a family recipe movie to pass on to future generations.

If either of us are brave enough to share it. Mairead.

Quiet – the book…



I’m reading a really interesting book at the moment. It’s called Quiet by Susan Cain. There’s also a TED talk. She writes about extroverts and introverts and thinks the extrovert personality type has an unfair advantage. The extrovert is seen as the ideal type, which can mean those of us who favour the introvert way of being can seem odd. Cain suggests the world needs introverts to be introverts. Although the words introvert and extrovert are not new to me, it is new to hear that it’s perfectly acceptable, in fact necessary (for an introvert) to be an introvert. No one told me.


(Old weather-beaten wall)

Cain explains that extroverts are energised when they’re with large groups of people – they love parties, they dislike solitude. Wait a minute… they love parties? And they refuel their energy when surrounded by lots of people. I didn’t know that was even a possibility. While introverts prefer solitude and get energised in nature or alone and they like to chat with one person at a time. Turns out the introverts often push themselves to be more extrovert so that they can fit in or get things done….. like give dinner parties or talk to a committee or whatever. But it is a very tiring activity for introverts to behave in an extroverted way and they need to refuel with space and solitude.


(Old wood)

I used to be very shy as a child and I remember when I went to college at seventeen making a decision, from that day forward I would be outgoing. It was easy, no one knew me from my previous school and I was good at pretending. So I watched outgoing people and copied them. I enjoyed it and since there were only four girls in a class of eighty I got a lot of attention! I was rewarded well for my efforts, but it was very tiring. I often used to wonder why I didn’t like parties, I thought there was something wrong with me.


(Old hearts)

It’s okay to love solitude. Mairead.

Bit stormy around here…..


(Red Leaves)

Lots of family stuff going on here at the moment. Lots of transitions. Lots of new lessons. Lots of getting used to new situations which seem like old situations… but are not really, exactly the same… possibly. None of which I can explain to you (official secrets act – better you don’t know so they can’t get it out of you) so I’ll go on to talk about something else but you’ll know I’m not talking about what I seem to be talking about… I’ll be talking about the other stuff. Understood? Great, then I’ll begin.


(Yellow moss)

That was very stormy weather we had at the weekend, wasn’t it? Denis and I took a long drive, just the two of us, on Saturday. The wind was so strong it made driving a little difficult, not to mention the rain making visibility difficulty. We had a lot to talk about. I spoke first, making sure I said lots to make myself understood. With the noise of the prevailing winds that often meant I was speaking LOUDLY. Then it was Denis’ turn. I needed to interrupt him a few times to make sure he was on the same wavelength as me. (There was no actual waves and we didn’t have the radio on, at all.) Then there was some silence, a few compromise sentences and some more silence. And laughter. Oh how we laughed. (Not really.)


(Grey bark)

Then we had arrived at a place to have a nice cup of coffee. We had never been there before so there was a lot to look at, besides each other. The rain stopped. The sun started to come out and we made our way home. The driving, the visibility and the noise had reduced so we both were able to speak at normal volume. And we laughed. (Yep, really.) Sometimes it gets stormy, making communication difficult, but eventually the wind dies down.


(Old door)

Gosh, it’s great to share, Mairead.

Potato Soup Time


(The stained recipe page)

I’m making soup. I love making soup. I love how it tastes, how it smells and I even like looking at it. It’s potato soup (it’s always potato soup) well, there’s also thyme in it but the main ingredient is potato. I’ve been making it for about fifteen years. Well, no, I mean, I’ve been repeating the soup making procedure for the past fifteen years, not, it’s taking fifteen years to make some soup. But… also, I mean it’s taken fifteen years to make this soup.


(One of my second-hand French tea towels –  beautiful shadows! Into the soup too!)

When my little boy was in primary school sometimes I would make the potato soup early, just before driving down to collect him. When he got into the car he would know that I had made it. How? He’d smell it on my clothes!! Now I know this might not please everyone but I loved it. You see, he loved the soup and he was happy when I smelled of soup because he’d soon be having soup! And I loved that I could do something so simple and have that impact.


(Snow from 2010 – into the soup too! It started snowing in my sister’s town in Canada today – oops)

So that and everything else I’ve experienced in those fifteen years goes into the soup I’m making today. Even though I use the same (stained) recipe book (I can never keep a recipe in my head…) and stick to the same basic recipe, the soup is filled with much more than the list of ingredients. It’s filled with the stories, the lessons, the happy days, the sad days, the angry days, the embarrassing days that I’ve experienced, because all those things are part of me now and they’re here as I make the soup. They’re in my arms as I dice the onions. They’re in my hand, full of thyme –  bigger and nicer because now I grow it. There in my choice of real butter, for a time it was olive oil, before that it was coconut oil. They’re in my back as I wonder about the weight of the saucepan, because a few years ago I longed to feel what my grandmother must have felt using a giant saucepan on a solid fuel cooker to make soup for her six children.


(Love, love, love stitches, especially if they’re HUGE – into the soup too!)

The soup we’re going to have today for dinner owes its magnificence to the complete picture of the person who makes it, warts and all. Mairead.

Sunday Walking


(The one picture in Marley Park)

We are continuing our new tradition of a Sunday walk and today we went back to Marley Park. We didn’t bring the camera…. we’re a bit lazy and anyway we both had cameras in our phones. Funny though – they only work if you charge them! Both, yes both ran out of power as we were walking. So there’s only one photo.


(Painting on paper)

We parked in the car park closest to the motorway, which means for the first ten minutes the noise is distracting but then you start to hear the stream and children playing and the ducks on the lake. It’s a lovely place. We had brought a picnic and some cold brew coffee but when we arrived at the picnic spot there was an organic fair. Inside a big tent there was a cookery demonstration and outside lots of stalls, including a very enthusiastic organic veg man. He had cut up some of his apples for tasting and they were amazing. Denis described them as being “like the ones we used to rob as kids!” I don’t like to mention this law-breaking side of his personality but it does evoke memories of a simpler time. I , of course, did not steal other people’s apples but I think I remember hearing about people who did…..


(It’s red!)

There was a long queue for the coffee stall and if we’d had a few extra mugs we might have stood a chance of setting up our own stall. I can get quite enthusiastic myself about the cold brew. But we didn’t. When we got home I started on a job I’ve been putting off for about five months. Painting a wall. While I like putting paint on paper or maybe even on canvas, a wall is big. So, it took me until today to start. The other thing about a wall? You can’t finish it in one afternoon. It may take five months…


(Too red?)

Take your camera when you go for a walk, Mairead!

Where do all the clothes come from?


(We had no idea there was a lovely walled garden in Marley Park, about 30 minutes from home)

Right so we’re back where we started, everything’s the same but nothing’s the same. And my most pressing question is… where did all the clothes come from? I spent the weekend washing and drying the clothes we brought to France. Lots of clothes. Plenty for a month of warm, little chilly, warm again (in other words, mixed) weather. But as these clothes were washing and drying there was still a wardrobe full of other clothes that we had not taken to France. Somehow we had survived without them. Somehow we didn’t need them. Then what are they for? Why are they lurking in our cupboards? If I packed them up and put them in the attic for a few months would we even notice? Probably not.


(…with a fountain)

But I’m not going to do that. I already have a ton of other distractions to fill my time, de-cluttering will have to wait until my schedule allows…. ah and therein lies a problem. I need a schedule…. a schedule that allows for stuff that can’t be ignored and yet gives the important stuff (creating stuff) high priority. A schedule that notices when I am tired and insists on rest. That notices when I am spending too much time wandering around having great ideas and not enough time implementing the previous great ideas and insists (gently) on focus. Complaining bit in next paragraph, skip if you’re having a nice day and/o you have real problems and don’t need to hear my “problems”….


(… and hens! And a cockerel…)

It was so easy when I was away….

  • Grocery shopping only once a week.
  • Lovely coffee and croissants.
  • Waking in the countryside.
  • Nowhere I needed to be.
  • Able to ignore notices from Revenue.
  • In fact able to ignore all the post – what post?


(… and pigeon houses…)

Ok I’m back… I need a schedule… hang on I just realised something. I can have all (almost) of those things I’m lamenting. Right? Ok you’ll have to read the previous paragraph after all… First, I can go grocery shopping once a week – we’ll call that Eat the Fridge. Second, the coffee won’t be a problem until we run out of the supplies we brought back (probably a month)  – we’ll call this Cold Brew at Home. Third, walking – just walk – we’ll call this Just Walking. Fourth, where do I need to be? Probably not as many places as I think…. We’ll call this Staying Home. I could so ignore Revenue but we’d probably have to call it Paying the fine. So instead I could open the post once a week? We’ll call this Friday feels like the best day for post. Sorted – no problems.


(… and flowers)

I feel better now, oh hang on what about all the clothes? Mairead.

Free trip to the barracks.

04 03b

(Decorative Arts and History Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin 7)

We went to visit Collins’ Barracks in Dublin yesterday. I had never been. It’s just twenty minutes walk from O’Connell Street and right beside Heuston Train Station. It has free parking and free admission. We were there because I was searching for some button history and I heard the museum had a permanent exhibition of Irish clothes, jewellery and accessories. There wasn’t much on buttons but there was lots of other stuff.

04 03c

(Quote from Eileen Gray)

There was a huge area dedicated to the  life and work of Eileen Gray. She was “an Irish woman who became one of the most influential designers and architects of the 20th century.” (from the brochure.) She was still designing and working on a project when she died at 98. She had a design shop in Paris in 1922, where she sold her furniture.

04 03a

(This little book is about four inches high)

But the exhibit that had the biggest impact on me was in a glass case with no description or explanation. It seemed to be from a mother to her now dead son, Will, telling him how much she loved him and how much she misses him. He died on the 22nd of August 1776, he was almost a year old. It is sometimes difficult to connect with the characters of history, with their odd clothes and unfamiliar lifestyle, but I have no difficulty connecting with Will’s mother.

We’ll be back, Mairead.