Thursday, 19 November 2015



Hello, isn't this just a crazy film? I was going to post up the old faithful of the potter's wheel especially as I have been considering running off to study ceramics after avidly watching the Pottery Throw down programme but the Daleks and mad bad baby doll won lands down. So sorry to have been awol for so long but I have been just run off my feet and have fallen so far behind in my Open University studies I feel as if I am never going to catch up!
This is my final year and while I am quietly elated just to have gotten this far, I am also fairly overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work I need to complete before June. Taking a whole week off to tour around beautiful West Cork at half term and yet another weekend to visit family in London was such brilliant fun but I'm left with a bit of a pre-Christmas panic. So much to do so little time! So I am going to have to put my little blog on hold for a just a couple of weeks just to get my head above the water once more.

I have to confess to feeling a little sad with the growing discrepancy between what I have to do and what I need to do. I'm sure that we all feel like this from time to time. I also have a lovely long list of half-completed crafty projects and really-need-to-do-very-soon crafty projects...
As sweet golden Autumn has turned into dank grey November, it is quite onerous to have to apply oneself to the rigors of Political Theory instead of curling up beside the fire with a good book/crochet/knitting or quilting. I have been peeping in at the wonderful socks that have been curling off the needles at Winkhan Mum's sock along on Facebook and really really want to join in. I have also joined up with Netgalley and want to bring you some extra book chat as well as showing you all the completed (hopefully!) crafty and Christmas projects.

Just to tie up a couple of loose ends, we found a lovely new home for Rolo, in a dairy farm by the sea! Apparently he settled in quite well and has three other dogs to play with. It was quite upsetting at first to part with him but at the same time, yet so rewarding to play a little part in a happy ending. I'm still running - just. I completed a 20 minute jog, which was unbelievably difficult and totally exhilarating and started to see a slight shrinking in the waist. But, my runners need replacing and I'm experiencing sever pain in my feet due to the lack of support so it has been too easy to put off the runs till tomorrow. So, a significant investment in both runners and walking boots has to be made this week and a significant investment of time has to be put towards my degree. Thanks so much for reading this far and I hope to be back very soon. Take care. xxxxx

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Hump de Bump

Thanks to Mr S and his common sense, I no longer have to listen to the ersatz music accompanying the Couch 25K app and can get my funk on to the Chilli Peppers. Yay! So, the update is that I am still somewhat stuck on Week5, Run 1 which is 5 running x 3 walking, three times. I had another running week off as I was doing 7k walks with the dogs, and was completely shattered with the constant vigilance that a new introduction to the household demands. But, I went out on Monday for my first run in the dark with just my Rosie and it was totally amazing! Running for 5 minutes now seems nearly natural. I had my  high vis on, Chili Peppers on loud and my little dog happily jogging along, this run was as close to perfect as I have had. I decided to push myself and speed up a little, nearly running FAST!
Imagine my chagrin as I looked at my phone to turn off the tunes and the app and noticed a little message from the C25k said:
Todays run was a little shorter than usual. Never mind, better luck next time.
Erm, Pardon me, Better luck next time?? What cheek, it was shorter because it was FASTER! Stupid app. Mr S of course found this hilarious, that I had 'been dissed' by my very own phone. I'm still looking forward to tonight's run though.
Tuesday found me at quilting class at The Crafty Fox, we are learning to make a flying geese quilt. So exciting! (Doesn't take much you say....) I have of-course set myself a mind puzzler of a quilt because I have a bundle of very cute but very limited size-wise vintage fabric so have not yet had the courage to cut up my stash. To further complicate matters, I want to sew geese of varying sizes so will have lots of measurements to calculate for homework. In just one lesson, I have an even greater respect for Quilters, it is such an amazing skill.
This is the quilt I want to make:
This is my fabric:
I might have to chose an alternative though:
Today (Wednesday) found me wrestling a large stinky recalcitrant Labrador down our road. On Tuesday, I came back to find a very smiley dog with it's head poking out of my very crooked wooden blinds. Rolo had managed to escape from the kitchen. He cries piteously when he is separated from the family but I can't trust him with the full run of the house alone and unsupervised, so today I made sure to pull the door completely closed and locked the stair gate in front. 
I had a quick dash round the shops and was horrified to open my front door to be greeted by a Golden Blur dashed past into the street almost knocking me off my feet and in hot pursuit of a Little Old Lady walking a Westie. Luckily, said Lady was sensible and stopped calmly to let me catch the great hooligan who was giddy with excitement at his own ingenuity. I hadn't stopped to get the lead so ended up dragging a very twisty Rolo by the collar who was digging his heels cartoon-like, just like Scooby Doo being forced to follow the 'ghost'! He does make me laugh so, he is such a cheerful, playful dog, it is like he wants to live life to the full after coming so close to the chop. He is off on a day-trip at the weekend to visit a prospective family and while I will be very sad to see him go, tears will be shed but deep down I hope he does get on well there. He deserves a permanent home and we are becoming very attached.
Why is it, that I always manage to be in these sorts of situations when some of the most immaculately groomed residents of our street are out and watching the capers? Then, I had a quick coffee and decided to speed round the garden with the mower and then fixed myself what I thought was a very long cool glass of homemade Elderflower cordial and enjoyed a large glug when I was horrified to find that it was in fact, last Autumn's rocket fuel, my Rosehip Vodka. I was quite Pink when collecting the kids from the school bus. Oh dear. Drinking in the Afternoon...Alone! Ho Hum, I kinda wish it was Friday already. Thank-you for reading. xxxxxxxxxxxxx





Saturday, 12 September 2015

Meet Rolo.

I am not the most prolific of bloggers, sometimes I have nothing to say, sometimes I have lots of inspiration but life gets in the way. This week, we have been dealing with an unexpected Guest, quite a lovable, eager to please guest but one that hasn't been taught very many manners and thus is quite demanding.

Rolo is a five year old, neutered male Labrador, that was taken to the vets in order to be euthanized or in our friendly 21st century euphemistic terminology, to be Put-To-Sleep. Luckily for Rolo, the vet recognizing his gentle trusting nature, refused to kill this beautiful healthy dog and called in our local animal rescue organization to take him into their care. Drogheda Animal Rescue, eventually put out an appeal, via social media for a foster home. So, there was I, feet up and cup of tea in hand, idly scrolling through sodding Facebook and there he was - again. This was the second shout-out for a foster home, original offers had fallen through and despite really not wanting the bother of another big dog, I just couldn't resist him.

Myself and Mr S have a 'thing' about Labs, we both grew up with them and appreciate the characteristics, good and bad of the breed. It was probably one of the reasons that our relationship has stood the test of time, love my Lab. I doubt very much sharing my life with a Rottie or a Poodle for example, fine dogs for some folks, just not a fit for me. Sometimes I think that favoured dog-breed are a bit like personal politics, religion or football teams, once chosen then hard-wired into preference. Other times, I tell myself to cop-on and that a dog is a dog and that there are far too many shallow assumptions about the characteristics of each breed. Indeed, our relatively modern obsession with only the appearance of a dog has had many unfortunate consequences for the health and well-being of many dogs.

So, here is the UK Kennel Club's fairly measured opinion of the Labrador Retriever and a valid  opinion that many will seek out when it comes to researching a potential family pet.

The Labrador is one of the best all-round dogs in the world. Not only used for retrieving game, he has also made his mark in the world of assistance dogs and as a ‘sniffer’ dog for drug and arms detection...A real gentleman, the Labrador adores children and has a kind and loving nature and a confident air. The big city is not really his scene; a bit of a country squire at heart, he comes into his own in rural surroundings. - See more at: - See more at:

But, I think that this description of the breed (and any breed) must contain the caveat of, 'only with early socialization, adequate exercise and consistent reward-based training'. So far Rolo has managed to escape from our supposedly dog-secure garden, jumped into the bath, chewed our skirting boards, chewed shoes, scraped all the paint from our kitchen door, cried when left alone, jumped up on all fours on the kitchen table, stolen food from plates, jumped up onto the wheelie bins and when he spots another dog on his walk wants to immediately play.

Ah sweet, you may think but today when off-leash out in the field he spotted a big husky about 500 yards away across a ploughed field and barrelled off, there was no amount of desperate calling, whistling and treat waving would bring him back. Thankfully, it was a friend of mine with the husky and he was easily brought back. Additionally, after his dinner he gets into particularly amorous mood and ignoring our own neutered bitch has taken a special liking to me. I never thought I would experience dog foreplay...shudder. It is like living with a hyper 40k horny puppy. Rolo is a lucky dog though, he has a gorgeous gentle nature, his eyes light up when he sees you and he is brilliant with the children so despite wanting to strangle him myself after 48 hours; he is staying until we can sort out a more permanent home for him.

He is so willing to please and listen, it makes me want to cry. For Rolo's only real crime was that his owner died and he was locked up in a shed for a year. I think he was an outside dog through for the majority of his life as the only commands he knows are OUT and NO! Slowly we are making progress, he is becoming calmer, learning to Sit and Stay. He has stopped crying at night and scraping the door, He is at least pausing before vaulting over the stair gate, in pursuit of food, company or shoes. I know he is happy to be here but if he catches a glimpse of a certain type of car when out on his walk, he watches it with thoughtful attention. My own dog Rosie is Most Annoyed about this new development but is indulging herself wrestling and sparring with the big guy.

So, I would say that for me the rewards of dog ownership/fostering are worth so much more than the effort required, the commitment required, the time that the hounds eat up but I would also say that if you think it is going to be easy, walk away. If you are thinking of buying a dog for your child, do not even think about it. If you are thinking of buying a puppy because it is cute or sick, walk away. Research your breed, yes. Pick the type of dog that suits your lifestyle, yes. But realise that your lifestyle is going to change, should change and that on average a dog will live for fifteen years.

It takes time and incredible patience to train and educate your dog, most people don't mind a puppy jumping up but if it is 40k of mud and slobber that is destroying your mate's new coat, it can get tricky. Exercise is critical, for the health of the dog, physically and mentally. No matter what size, I know a man who jogs with a Chihuahua.  My Dad recently adopted a 9month old Cavalier King Charles, her owners had lost interest in her, they wanted to go to the gym and not exercise the dog. I don't understand this. I would much rather be out in the fields with my Mutt, than stuck inside a gym with artificial lights and annoying music. Walking is good for me too, both physically and mentally. I can have that extra glass of Red tonight and the regularity of the exercise keeps the 'Black Dog' away.

However, if you have bought a dog and for whatever reasons you regret it, the animal welfare charities, just like our own Drogheda Animal Rescue are absolutely fantastic, they will organise a new home for your dog with no judgement. Recently, DAR rehomed a group of dogs in Sweden, isn't that just fantastic?
If you have stayed all the way to the end of this blog post, thank-you so much! I will leave you with some pics of the canines.
EDIT: Update - Rolo was adopted by a lovely family who have a dairy farm by the sea.


Friday, 28 August 2015

To Loughcrew and Lloyds Spire.

Last weekend was the last Saturday before the kiddos went back to school. (They went off this morning and the house is so quiet and mysteriously tidy!) So as the weather forecast predicted sunshine in the morning and persistent rain for the rest of the weekend - it was time to take advantage of the promised dry spell, dust the trusty thermos off, pack everyone into the car and set off for the day to explore somewhere we have never been before.

I have been wanting to visit Loughcrew for a long time now, not only are you promised a beautiful magical garden to wander around but nearby there are some of the most stunning megalithic passage graves in all of Ireland. In the gardens there is a zip-line and a climbing tree for those of us who like being suspended a long way above the comfort of terra firma on a rope. I packed my kindle and some crochet as there is also a coffee shop where I could happily dog-sit while the rest of the party could investigate the activities of the adventure centre.

Despite scorn for our choice of music from the little ones in the back seat, getting completely  lost twice and meeting a oncoming idiot driver, hurtling murderously down the middle of a twisty country road, we arrived at Loughcrew in very good spirits and were delighted with what we found. Our spirits had been greatly restored by he short drive to Loughcrew from the pretty town of Kells , the car climbing to an elevated plateau, dissecting a glorious panorama of  countryside, a vast quilt of green fields and tumbling grey and white dry stone walls. We had asked directions from the happiest lady in the land, cheerfully mowing her immaculate green baize lawn craved out of the side of a rocky mountain and found her mood contagious.

First place to explore was the atmospheric family church of St. Oliver Plunket. Man, there is nothing I like more than wandering around ruined churches and graveyards, I find the atmosphere so calm and peacefully contemplative. I love trying to decipher all the inscriptions and dreaming of all the people who lived once and are now resting here. The rest of the family don't share this attraction and are happy to scamper through and quickly on but I lingered and was delighted to be accompanied by a little wren as I wandered.

The gardens of Loughcrew House are a very atmospheric remnant of a now-lost 16th century house, it is one of those places that I can imagine full of shivery shadows after dusk. To walk in the company of such venerable yews was a privilege and the Alice-in-wonderland sculptures were charming. The highlight of the kids trip though was seeing their Dad ascending the climbing tree and the Hen Party falling in the lake.


I have one teeny criticism though, the promised 4k Lake walk is quite hard to access, the directions are confusing. we did attempt to follow the red arrows but there was a wire fence running through the apparent access points. We could have walked back to the coffee shop to ask the very friendly and accommodating staff but the heavens decided to open and we decided scurry back to the car and  make for home. Disappointingly this meant that we did not get to visit the Cairns this time but I'm sure we will be back this way very soon.
On the drive in, as we were leaving Kells,  we had passed an intriguing sign for The Spire of Lloyd, pointing to a structure that looked suspiciously like a lighthouse. Given that Kells is fairly inland, Lloyd and his spire seemed fairly extraneous! This seemed like one of those potentially exciting places that all too often is ignored as we drive on to another destination. So weather allowing I was determined to check this place out and having driven away from the rain we called in and well gosh it was worth it. So first we had to stop for a swing at the playground in the community park, then down through the fields to look for the Ring fort and back up to admire the view from the spire.

The spire is indeed a lighthouse and was built by the first Earl of Bective as a memorial to his father, Sir Thomas Taylor. The folly is also said to have been built as a comfortable viewing platform from which the Headfort family could enjoy the course of the hunt. This impressive symbol of 18th century wealth and landownership sits in poignant proximity to a one of the bleakest and most moving features of the Irish landscape, a famine graveyard.

The Great Famine, An Gorta Mor, 1845-1852 was a catastrophic failure of both the potato crop and that of the structural forces present in Irish society that saw over a third of the population, the landless labour class exist in abject poverty dependant on a one crop subsistence farming and the vagrancies and often brutality of the absentee Landlord class. Over a million people died of starvation in these years and a further million emigrated, leaving a scar on the cultural and demographic nature of the country that has yet to fade completely from our psyche. How fleeting our lives can be, potentially we are all migrants from poverty and conflict.
As the clouds darkened and the rain swept over this place, we thought of all those nameless people buried here in a pauper's grave without individual marker.
A contemplative end to a great day out. Thank-you so much for reading and have a great weekend with those you love. xxx
As part of Heritage week, both Loughcrew Gardens and Lloyds Spire are open to the public this weekend and are free of charge. The lighthouse is open for viewings on Sunday 30th August.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Song 2. Week 5. Whoo Hoo!

Hello. I can't wait to tell you this. This song is how I feel when I start running. Every time.

Song 2 by Blur.

I am at the business end of the Couch to 5k programme now, I just cannot believe how far I have come. I am on week 5 which is three different runs:

Run 1,
Warm-up 5 min walk
5 min run
3 min walk
5 min walk
3 min walk
5 min run
5 minute warm down walk.

So, I completed this run at the beginning of last week and was totally elated at my progress, so couldn't wait to start Run 2 which is supposed to be after the warm up,  8 minutes of running, 5 minutes of walking, then another 8 minute run. However, I updated the phone to whatever the latest operating system and the only thing that disappeared was my C25K podcasts so after a reload I accidently stared running Week 5, Run 3 which was a huge jump to 20 minutes of running!  Well, I can't run for 20 minutes non-stop but I nearly did it and you know what just a few more runs and I know that I will be able to do this. When I think of this in my future I feel like quite emotional. The icing on the big fat cake was a collegiate nod from a proper jogger, or perhaps he was just acknowledging the cuteness of my happy furry running companion. I swear that dog wears the most enormous grin when she is padding alongside.

Week 2, Run 2 is proving to be a right killer though so until I can master this set I think I am going to be sticking here for a bit.

Due to the school hols, I have had to tweak my routine around the kids so have been running at dawn and dusk. Apart from needing to nod off after lunch, this has been a really great experience, a wee bit of alone time in the busy day. At dawn, I was surprised to see quite a majority of women out, jogging and power walking. At dusk I keep my eye on the horizon and run towards the beauty of the cloud formations as the sun sets. I know I have been complaining about the Irish weather but, you know there is a quality about the drama that plays out in the contrasts of the sun and rain keep me here in this sometimes soggy but always beautiful little island.

So in-between all that someone recommended that I listen to some 'Philosophy Bites' podcasts in preparation for this years Open Uni module and 'course had to listen to this guy Mark Rowlans on Philosophy and Running. Mark Rowlands bought himself a wolf - as you do - and to avoid the destruction of his home by this noble creature, began to run to exercise the wolf into exhaustion and is now hooked on the action. Rowlans (I think!) sees an existential purity when the reasons for running fall away,- losing weight, getting fitter, being able to dance when 80 - and what is left is joy in the action for its own sake, for "it's own intrinsic value". I am beginning to see the value of running for pure pleasure, to "be in touch with the intrinsic good in life" which is a Good Thing and not just because I haven't lost a single ounce yet! All the best! xxxxx

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Between the showers.

Hello! Welcome back to Oriel. How is your summer going? Ours has been a tad miserable to say the least. I guess we should have known, toying with The Weather Gods in such a cavalier fashion. So since our purchase of some garden furniture at the end of May in a joyous burst of enthusiasm for the hot promise of a Summer, any Summer, we have used the set approximately twice and the view to the garden looks mostly like this. Sodden. Abandoned.

Met Eireann, the Irish Meteorological service has been monotonously persistent with it's daily depressing forecast of 'thundery rain moving east'; this has been the worst summer since I moved to Co. Louth and that year it rained for a biblical forty days! Nevertheless, we have been trying to make the best of it, embracing the excuse to catch up on our favourite house pursuits, crafting, baking, reading, colouring and watching as many films as can be squeezed into a rainy afternoon. I am making steady progress with O's Autumn Sunburst blanket and Rosie likes it too.

She is a very crafty dog as you can see, these are a pair of PJ bottoms that I made for E from the fabric I bought up in Belfast and blogged about here. I followed this brilliant tutorial from the completely marvellous Countryside Tales blog and managed to run them up in about three hours!

The sun did make an appearance briefly and conveniently for a little photo-shoot. I miss you Sunshine.

E is delighted with them and I cannot wait to make some for myself as soon as a little bit of fabric cash manages to settle in my purse. When we were in London, I couldn't help noticing that those colouring book for adults were all over the place, despite being an avid colour-in-er in my youth, I didn't really 'get' the concept at the time but of course now that we are At Home, they seem like such a good idea and not just for the grown ups either. I love the intricate detail of the Secret Garden one but thank-fully for our diminishing summer budget, you can print out some free sheets from Red Ted Art and I just love how the kids approach the same picture in their own unique way. Sadly no pics of our art, it is just too feckin' grey for photography.

Play-doh is another 'old' toy that is also making quite a come back in our house, of-course we had to try the allegedly fabulous no-cook make-your-own recipe but oh my goodness letting two over-enthusiastic kids loose with bright red food colouring is not for the faint hearted. My lovely old farmhouse table is now covered in great globular red stains which no amount of elbow grease can shift AND the resulting 'playdoh' was deemed Far Too Yucky and promptly discarded and Mr S cajoled into buying some real stuff from the big supermarket.

Some days, it has been too wet for some people to even get dressed and Baking in Onesies and Licking Bowls in Pyjamas has become quite a weekly event. I don't think Mary Berry would approve.

Mr S has been getting all creative too.

Can you guess what it is yet?


Mr S is attempting some serious pallet reconstruction. Hopefully, I will be able to reveal the result of his endeavours before next summer...! Bye for now. xxxxx

Saturday, 25 July 2015

London snapshots.

Old Spitalfields Market.


Hampton Court
We went to London and for the first time in a long time we became tourists in our former home city. All around the heat shimmered and we moved in a determined slow motion, there was a tube strike and we were disorientated and amateurish when trying to navigate our way around the cashless oyster card system. We glimpsed new tube stations, great soaring apartment buildings - too ubiquitous to become landmarks - new pathways and directions -my previously sharp London map slowly remembered and eventually restored. We checked off some places that we had never been and places half-remembered since childhood - the maze at Hampton Court has drastically shrunk!

I saw the ghosts of lost friends in many faces and felt 21 again as we danced, reunited with some old ones. We celebrated with our growing extended family, precious new-born babies and beautiful bumps. I marvelled at the shift in our parental journey, it seems like minutes since we were the distracted parents of small infants and focused on the mindful vigilance that accompanies the fast-moving toddler. In the face of the mighty force that is Grandma, myself and Mr S became slightly redundant, some unusual hours of child-free time opening. We had enormous fun but I got my cure , it was probably no accident that I bought this book. (The background is a 1970's shopping bag that had to be bought in no small degree because of the texture and the smell! It takes me back to a hot 1970's summer, my wee pram with a similar plastic cover.)

I went clothes shopping on a Saturday morning, all the shops packed with people, sales stock strewn into a bemusing mass, stale air-conditioning in the giant shopping centre. I wanted to give up almost immediately, forget about the new shoes and join the kids in the park. The old seduction of London  was still strong, the brisk efficient mass of commuters, the endless number of undiscovered streets; the potential for people watching, the stories writing themselves as the actors in each tube carriage  shifted, emptied and refilled. The teenagers kissing at Harrow-on-the-Hill, the old Punks with chiselled features at The Angel, the beautiful twins with immaculate hair and light graceful dresses at London Bridge, a vivid 1960's painting for a dream house in Old Street. A lovely exhausting time but an interlude, I missed my space. We went for a lazy pub lunch in the pretty village of Sarratt, strolled part of the Chiltern Way and it was here that I felt most still and content. I saw the sky and the distant fields, and breathed out.

A most fortunate rabbit.

Sarratt Bottom. Address envy. xxx