Saturday, December 31, 2011

Been and gone..

Just making it in before the month and year end, with not much to say. 

Christmas was good, though somewhat of a whirlwind. Staying in my parents', eating in my aunt's, driving west to my Mum's family and then on to his, before making it back home again.

I ate plenty, I drank enough, I got some of the best presents ever; beautiful earrings, cookery lessons, DVDs, books (including the new Rachel Allen, hurrah!), masses of chocolate and a bottle of Prosecco! 

So we're back home and the tree still smells amazing, even through a full and fuzzy head of cold. A great excuse, if one were needed, to stay in this evening.

New Year's Eve has always been somewhere between not important and painful to me, after spending many years with no one to kiss at midnight and generally hating forced enjoyment. Paying in, queueing, standing, urgh. 

Last year, our first New Year's together, we stayed in, eating picky food from M&S and drinking bubbles. This year I have some of Superquinn's finest cheeses, pâté, and crackers in since Wednesday, and will couple them with some meats and bread to try and outdo the wine bar with the unpronounceable name! 

The last hurrah, before a January of lettuce, carrot sticks and water! Well, maybe not, but certainly a chips and chocolate free one! 

Other resolutions are to smile more, write more, oh and bake more! I think those three should go together nicely. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Christmas!

I’m very excited. I know, I know, it’s only November. Keep calm and wait till December. I can’t help it though, I’m excited.

I accidentally started Christmas shopping a few weeks ago, when in Kildare village with my Mum. I put the few things I bought away and forgot about them, but over the last couple of day I officially started, though again somewhat accidentally.

You see, November is a busy enough month for me present wise, so I’ve spent some time in the shops. Each week I have a very important person’s birthday. One of my very best friends; followed by my godson, then my mother and then himself.

Last year was our First His Birthday, only two months into our relationship, and I was nervous. This year I’m less nervous, and have been making notes, thinking, looking and consulting with friends for the last while. With his birthday and Christmas a mere 25 days apart I’ve had to think smart, make lists and warn him not to buy anything until January.

So I’ve spent the last few weeks looking for birthday presents while jingles bell and all things red and gold assault the eyes. I managed to get most of the birthday cards bought before they all vanished behind snow scenes and open fires, though I still have three to get. Himself, and my Granny and aunt who share a birthday next week; my Granddad would’ve been 91 on the same day.

This year will be our First Christmas Living Together, and I suppose that’s really the reason I’m so excited. We’ll go our separate ways before the day itself, him heading West with me to follow after a Dublin Christmas.

Before that though I (we?) will decorate the house to an inch of its life, never leaving the Christmas tree / star-shaped (I have yet to decide which one to get) sweet plate empty of Roses. We’ll have our own mini-Christmas dinner with a turkey-for-two from Aldi, paper hats, crackers and falling asleep on the couch afterwards, only to wake up starving an hour later.

Lots of other lovely plans made; watching Home Alone while eating cheese pizza, making him watch Love Actually with me, a trip to the Christmas market, dinners and drinks with friends, and I’m not sure I was joking when I said I might just move into Nearys for the month! 

So what if it's still November, this day next month it'll be Christmas eve! So boo to your bah humbug!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sniffle snuffle.

Sniffle snuffle. Cough and splutter.

I have a cold. Not a life threatening or life altering thing, just annoying.

First a sore throat, then an earache, followed by a headache. It moved down into my chest, leaving me feeling like a small (but heavy) child was sitting on me.

Eventually, at 3.45am Saturday morning, it started to clear, amongst painful coughs and child-like tears of frustration at not being able to cough or sleep.

Three days later and it has taken over my senses, of smell, and taste.

They say you can't get the same cold twice. I didn't realise they meant you couldn't get the same cold two days in a row. A magical travelling circus of a cold, currently residing in the nasal passages. For one day only, I hope!

I fear it may be heading north for a grande finale of headachey proportions. But oh, to breathe normally again! To be able to walk for more than 15 minutes at a time, or run up stairs. 


Boring you, am I? Imagine how I bloody feel. Big grumpy snuffly head on me. 

I promise normal shiny-ness will resume shortly, with lovely stories.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nothing to see here..

No really, there isn't. 

Work, gym, spending time with himself, Croke Park, MasterChef, Family Guy, cooking, cleaning, eating, drinking, sleeping.

That's about it really for the last month.

And now I have a cold! Stupid.
 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Football versus football.

Growing up in my house there were two kinds of football. Football and soccer. No, before anyone starts, we’re not American. We’re Irish. My Mum’s from the hurling side of a Gaelic county and my Dad grew up in Dublin, in a cul de sac full of second generation Dubs like himself, influenced by their culchie parents’ love of the GAA.

That said, my mother somewhere along the lines, whether through a love of Kevin Moran, Denis Irwin or the colour red, became an avid Manchester United fan. I’ve often said she would watch the Paraguayan tiddly winks championship, if there was such a thing, so I suppose she had to pick someone to shout for. 

My Dad, however, only really watches sport when he’s working at it, and only vaguely supports Sunderland because Niall Quinn’s a nice bloke. 

Still though, to save confusion football meant Gaelic football and when talking about the other football, at least until after September, we generally said soccer.

Then I went and met a fella who grew up in the 80s when Irish boys were being lured by the dream of going off to the many big schmokes of England and being paid  tens of thousands of pounds to kick a ball around for 90 minutes. 

Now what? His football season begins tomorrow, just as mine begins to draw to its exciting close. He asked me last night, very seriously, who I would be supporting. His sister asked me the same a month or so ago and I was nervous to reply. 

It’s a tough one for me. I support the Dubs, because I am a Dub! I support Clare, because it’s my second home. I support Munster, because my Mum, her five brothers and four sisters do (and my Dad hates rugby) and I’d be scared to do otherwise. 

So maybe I’ve answered my own question. If someone you love loves someone… 
 
Damnit, I think I’m a Liverpool fan. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Seven bottles of wine on the floor…

It was a great way to end what was, without a doubt, the best two weeks’ annual leave I’ve ever taken. 
 
On Monday, the Bank Holiday I almost forgot, I met three of my longest serving friends for lunch. At 1pm we met and ordered various combinations of breakfast, lunch and brunch, depending on how long it was since we’d left the bed. Though oddly, the one who was up most recently ordered a burger. I decided on brunch as you’re allowed, if not obliged, to have a drink with it.

Some confusion over the drinks order resulted in a very welcome glass of prosecco followed by a bottle of red wine. The bottle was swallowed in no time and dessert and coffees quickly stepped in to fill the void. We decided to go back to my place for another bottle of wine, stopping in Superquinn to buy some crisps, cheese and goodies for later on, just in case. 

We arrived and the crisps and jellies were immediately opened as was a bottle of wine, which was poured out into three glasses. Pellegrino in a fourth glass, for the driver, who had pre-holiday visits to make so couldn’t stay to watch the gluttony.

Us three that remained sat, bravely and Irishly, in the garden watching the clouds appear in front of the sun, threatening but not delivering a need to move inside. Bottle after bottle was opened, himself joined us from work and another bottle joined the pile. 

The month that preceded this day had been just brilliant. A birthday being spoiled; a champagne picnic in the Botanic gardens, some nostalgia and a dinner in my favourite restaurant. Amazing presents - art, DVDs, books, bubbles, perfume, jewellery - amazed at the generosity of my friends. The best birthday party ever, topping even my 30th and definitely my 31st. Then a holiday in parts; Lisbon with my boy for a week that felt longer, some time at home and a mini break to Navan.

First time ever I didn't mind, too much, going back to work but still thinking of my next break!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Oops, I appear to have lost June!

I think I must have spent every spare minute in June either watering my garden or driving, lessons and practice for the test! The garden watering was calm and lovely but the stress of the test was a whole other thing.

I booked lesson after lesson and came back from each feeling either frustrated at not being a perfect driver, or elated that I'd got a simple 'good' from my instructor. Many times when I got in I thought of, or had, a beer. In part to have a beer and in part to prevent myself from driving again that evening, causing more frustration.

I had a date, for my test, and told only my instructor and my manager, who had to authorise my day off. Not my nearest or dearest, or anyone who asked 'have you put in for your test yet?'. I'd just reply with a vague 'yeah' and hope they wouldn't ask any more. It nearly burst out of my mouth 'IT'S NEXT TUESDAY!!' but I held back, wanting to conquer this thing on my own. 

The Monday before the scheduled date I was sick, sick to my stomach. No pretty butterflies fluttering but great big, dirty moths banging off the sides. About 23 and a half hours before time, my phone rang. One of the testers was sick (oh, me too!) so the test would have to be rescheduled. Pre-test lesson, day off work and test rescheduled for the following Wednesday and the moths disappeared.  

The following Monday the nerves returned, but less than before and on the Tuesday I felt ok. On Wednesday I was a big bag of wobbly, teary nerves. I met my instructor at 10am, with a learner instructor to keep us company, for my last lesson. Afterwards we sat in the car and he reassured me that to not be nervous would to not be human. I said goodbye, went to wipe my face and take a few deep breaths, and sat beside a boy who looked half my age to wait. 

The man came out and brought me in; sat me down and asked me to sign to confirm that I hadn't robbed the car on the way over, or something.  Then the questions; something about full beam and dipped headlights, speed limits and motorways, then pointing at road signs, like a quick fire round. I remembered that it was a 'level crossing with a barrier' not 'train tracks with gate' as I saw it, and the difference between a clearway and a pedestrianised zone. Looking like Mrs Doyle when she finally comes to remember Father Todd Unctuous. The bonnet opened and pointing where you fill and refill. Then in, turning switches and pushing buttons. 

We were off, out and to the left, the route I preferred. Less than three minutes down the road and he said to pull over. I was that bad, we were done, he wanted out. Or rather a new spot for an uphill start. Round and round and round we went, reversed around a corner, the three-point turn now named a turnabout, which is lucky as it was five points, then back to base.

Sat in the same seat and he asked me to sign another piece of paper. Thinking he must have forgotten to get me to sign this one earlier. The words 'Certificate of Competency' meaning nothing in my nervous state. 'You passed' (holding back the 'duh!') getting a much better reaction! 

Back out into the car park and the sunny morning broke and rain fell. I rang my dearest, and my nearest, sent messages to all, sat back into the car and stalled.

Oh and the garden's looking good.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How does your garden grow..?

With help from friends and a new found enthusiasm. 
 
This weekend, with the boy at work, a couple of good (green-fingered) friends came over and we tackled my garden.

After a precarious, sharp, left hand turn into the garden centre I set about loading my flat bed trolley, and banging my shins off it! Four 25L bags of top soil, three 75L bags of compost, two rolls of wooden pole things, slow release plant food, tomato food, baby bio, gloves, plants and more plants. I resisted temptation many times and stuck to the plan. 

No sooner were we home when the hunger got the better of me, and I escaped to get us some rolls to fill with various combinations of chicken, cheese, coleslaw and stuffing. Leaving my friends to plot and scheme and dig. After lunch we raided the neighbour's skip for bits of broken concrete, bricks and granite to use for drainage. Oh, it was an exciting afternoon.

We, and I use the term lightly, made a raised flower bed. Into which we planted some old plants and some new. Crocosmia, lavender, fuchsia, a trailing geranium, and ones we can only remember as the sambuca plant and the rohypnol plant, neither of which is correct. 

We swabbed the deck(ing), replanted the pots, put up a trellis and attached a new magic hose gun sprayer thing! We sent for more compost, we cleaned up, we stood back and marvelled at our day's work.

I now have a lovely little garden, which I am ridiculously excited about! If I can keep this going next year I'm planting things I can eat!  However, going on past performance, that's a very big if!

Friday, May 13, 2011

It’s my birthday and I’ll party if I want to..

It’s not my birthday, not yet, but there are a lot of birthdays going on at the moment. Three of my best friends’ birthdays are within 4 weeks of each other between April and May. Some celebrate, some don’t, for different reasons. I have to say I love a birthday party, always have, and support the right to party!
 
In Primary School there were 24 girls in my class so there was a nice, even spread of birthdays throughout the year. I was a bit of a tomboy usually found in a blue tracksuit, with a pink stripe, bombing it 'round on my red bike, but I loved to get dressed up in a frilly party dress and matching hair band. Not much has changed. 

Armed with a pink present, wrapped in pink paper, with a pink bow. Ready to eat cocktail sausages, monster munch, chipsticks, rice krispie buns, kimberleys and mikados. I never took to coconut creams. Playing pass the parcel, musical statues, musical chairs (basically a more violent adaptation) and winning amazing prizes like rubbers with rainbows printed on them. 

Not much has changed. I still love a birthday party. Celebrating someone making it through another year, celebrating the day they came to be. I think that's an important thing. Worthy of cake and candles, balloons, beers, or whatever makes you happy. I don't think you have to be under 12, 18 or 21, or a nice round number to celebrate. 

Last year I didn't really have a birthday. I went to work, it wasn't noticed. I called over to my parents' afterwards and had dinner with my Mum, Dad was away, and she had a muffin with a candle for me. That weekend I had pizza and beers at home with three good friends. The rest were away, on holidays, at weddings, at concerts or recently moved to London! 

This year I'm having a birthday. I don't know where and I don't know what, but there'll be cake and candles and whoever wants to celebrate with me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

L is for Learner

When I was 16 I decided I wanted a yellow VW beetle. I started saving and begging my Dad, but neither worked. Any savings I accumulated ended up being spent on holidays instead and my Dad thought I should pass my test first. I’m still not sure of his logic, but it got him out of buying me a car! 

I took some lessons in my late teens and loved it. Myself and my driving instructor would set off, him smoking rollies. It was easy, pedals, gears, mirrors, road markings, easy peasy. Uphill starts, reversing around a corner, three point turns, not a bother! I booked in my test and a load of pre-test lessons. 

A week before my test I got a call to say my instructor had been taken ill. My last three lessons were taken with three different, very different, instructors. The first was a young, good looking, charming, funny guy, who I spent more time looking at than at the road. The second was a tiny little feminist who lectured me on going for my truck driving licence after I got my test. The third was a guy who worked in the office, either the manager or the cleaner, and hadn’t given a lesson in years.

I did not pass my test, and I had to walk home. 

Over the following years I started college and then work, all within a 3 mile radius from home, with good public transport and nice routes to walk. I continued to spend my money on flights and accommodation rather than insurance and car tax.

Then the Celtic Tiger started pushing my friends further out, to the suburbs, commuter towns and Athlone. We were growing up and needed cars to see each other, and to buy jumbo boxes of washing powder when it was on offer. 

So last summer I retook the plunge. I got back on to my smoking driving instructor, who had recovered but continued to smoke, just not in the car this time. I bought a car, not a yellow Beetle but a grey Golf, I loved it! I booked ten lessons, I hated it.

When you are 17 you have no fear of driving. When you are 31 you have millions. 

I was scared of everything, including: driving into parked cars, driving into oncoming cars, driving into cyclists, cyclists falling in front of my car, kamikaze pedestrians, children running onto the road, roundabouts, turning right, turning left, reversing, stalling, ambulances, taxi drivers, buses, accidentally falling asleep, the steering wheel falling off, and some other things I can't think of right now.

My driving instructor told me I was doing fine and just needed to practice, practice, practice. So needing someone with a full licence I enlisted my Dad, which was a big mistake, huge! He was great, but it ended in tears and set me back. I also went out with my friend's ever helpful and extremely patient husband, who understood completely how it is to learn to drive in your 30s, but with my busy schedule and him living 30 minutes away it was difficult to schedule anything regularly enough for my needs.

Then last week I had a breakthrough. Bank holiday Monday, a friend home from London staying with me needed a lift. So we drove, and drove, and drove. Driving with purpose, running errands, on a sunny bank holiday morning. It clicked. On Wednesday I borrowed my friend's husband again, to practice the route to their house. On Friday I picked up a friend and drove us into the cinema in town!

It's still a work in progress but I'm enjoying it now. Enough fear has left me to get on with it, enough remains to keep me safe. My car is no longer a decoration, keeping my driveway dry.

Being a 31 year old learner driver has its drawbacks. I think people assume the L-plates are for show, or maybe they were just born knowing how to drive and that's why they beep me when I stall at traffic lights - a rare thing. 

However, being a 31 year old learner driver also has its advantages. At 31 I care less what people think, so mostly ignore the beeping. Though I am secretly hoping I'll get an opportunity to go Dara Ó Briain on someone's ass!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fish fingers and strawberries

Since I last posted my life has pretty much returned to normal. 

The first week was a blur. Wake on Monday, removal Tuesday, funeral Wednesday and back to work on Thursday. On the Friday I was back on the road again for a confirmation, a welcome break, a chance to escape reality for few more days.

Last week was just a normal week, work, home, eating, sleeping. Of course it's not normal down in my Granny's. I'm not sure if it ever will be. A man lives in a house for 90 years, it'll surely take another 90 to be normal without him.

This evening I had fish fingers and waffles for dinner and some strawberries afterwards. The Irish strawberries have hit the shops, another sign of summer! 

I'm off from Thursday for a week. My plans include cleaning, tidying, throwing out stuff and getting things sorted. There's also talk of a picnic, a trip to the zoo, Tuesday evening drinks and maybe a trip on the DART on a weekday afternoon. Can't wait to turn off the alarm and see what time I wake and how the day goes.

It's getting me geared up for the real deal, the summer holidays. Two weeks off work, what to do? We've had the talk, our first holiday together, and are agreed! 

A week somewhere we don't speak the language, where we can lie in the shade of the sun, reading books, eating, drinking and seeing if we run out of things to talk about. 

Followed by a week exploring our own country, helping the economy, reading maps and eating as many 99s as the west coast will provide.

I'm a holiday ahead of myself, but not wishing the in between away. It's just nice to have some things to look forward to. I'll let you know when I've plans made for my autumn break... After Easter maybe?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last Sunday

Last Sunday my Granddad got up and went to 9 o'clock Mass in his local church.

Last Sunday I got up and brought my mother to brunch at 11.30am in Odessa.

Later my Granddad had a roast goose dinner, followed by trifle and cream.

I had smoked salmon eggs benedict, freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee.

After dinner, my Granddad (aged 90 and almost a half) went fishing.

After brunch, I (aged 31 and almost three-quarters) went shopping.

After fishing, my Granddad walked from the river, through the fields, to the bridge to wait for his lift.

After shopping, I went to lie on the couch in my boyfriend's house, tired from a night out and early start.

Last Sunday, my Granddad sat on the bridge, hands on the stone either side and bowed his head.

Last Sunday, as I started to open an ice-cream and sit on a bench, I got a call from my mother, sobbing.

Never sick, we never expected him to go. His first admittance to hospital was for his post mortem. He went they way he should, aged 90, but still too soon.

He leaves behind his wife, ten children, 26 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. 

He had planted cabbages and potatoes the week before, the turnips were next.

He caught a fine trout the day he died.

R.I.P. Granddad.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Drunk when sober.

Yesterday evening I met a friend after work and we wandered around the shops for a while, overspending, before going for dinner. 

A four course Spring special, that was actually five, pulled us into its clutches and we started to munch and slurp and chat our way through. 

"What is that?", she said proffering a piece of tofu, pulled out of her miso soup, "tastes like what I would imagine gelatine and wallpaper paste would taste of". "pretty sure that's what tofu is made of", I replied.

Through sichuan gyoza, sweet chilli chicken and spicy cod tempura, washed down with two diet cokes each, onto baileys cheesecake, banoffee and coffee. 

Chatting about our purchases, me worrying about the dress I had just spent far too much on spontaneously combusting and in my panic saying contaneously instead and taking some convincing that it isn't a word.

Chatting about her holidays, flight times, accommodation, restaurants, wine and whether spray on or rub in sun screen was better.

Chatting about friends and colleagues, how long it takes brown rice to cook and how to curl your hair, playing a game of would you rather, checking our shopping hadn't run away.

We left and walked to our bus stops, still babbling, high on caffeine, sugar and chat. Nearly running off with her shopping when my bus arrived suddenly as she scrambled in her purse for her fare. 

Getting on the bus and almost slurring my "1.65" before stumbling into a seat. Getting off feeling a little blurry, then remembering I hadn't had a drink.

Just full of good food, good company, chat and laughter.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

You could have been in a ditch!

Hmm, they didn't answer their phone, it must be upstairs. Or maybe in their coat pocket, or bag. Or maybe it's on silent? Or maybe they left it in work. Or on the bus. Or maybe it fell out of their pocket. Or they accidentally dropped it in the canal.

Or maybe they fell in the canal. Or maybe they dropped their phone on the path and went to pick it up and fell onto the road and got knocked down and their phone got run over and they were brought to the hospital but the hospital didn't know who to call because their phone was broken and and and...

Sometimes, some days, this is how my mind works.

Like the morning one of the lads in work, who was generally about three or four minutes late, didn't show up. When there was no sign of him by twenty past I texted him. No response. Then at twenty to I rang him. No answer. So I rang him again. Still nothing. He cycled to work, so I started to worry. I had him in a ditch.

About five minutes later he rang, sleepily, to tell me that he had slept in, with his phone on silent. When he arrived he pointed out that there weren't too many ditches between Ringsend and the city centre.

Or this morning when by 10.40am my manager, who had a meeting first thing in one of our other offices, hadn't shown up. She had expected to be in around 9am, but I expected her to be delayed. Odd though, that she had been delayed that much. It did say on the radio this morning that it was very windy last night. There was trees falling all over the place in Galway wasn't there? Dublin's not that far really?

So I rang the other office, and asked if anyone had seen her. I didn't need to talk to her, I just wanted to check. I had her in a ditch. However, I was reassured that she had been there not too long ago and as I put down the phone she walked in. Not a bother on her and sure why would there be?

Maybe it's my overimaginative brain, or the fact that I am turning into my mother, but this jumping to conclusions involving ditches, making my heart palpitate, stomach swirl and ears burn can't be good for me!

I need to learn how to shrug! Become one of those people who assume everything's grand, which it usually is.

But what if they are in a ditch?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Operation Project

I started this post a week ago, full of vim. Great plans, great thoughts, great ideas, but I didn't finish. Neither the post, nor the sentiments. So, to finish and update.

Operation Box Room (aka Operation Clear Out)

My first mission is to clear out the box room and make it a storage room. It is currently a storage room. 

However, at the moment you need to be flexible, with good balance and quick wits, to manoeuvre your way in or out between the Christmas decorations, rolls of wrapping paper, never used futon, empty suitcases, unwanted presents, bags of clothes, shoes and bags destined for charity shops and documents for shredding.

Not to mention the boxes and general clutter occupying the wardrobes in the spare room and sitting on top of the wardrobes in my own room, which have never been opened since the day I moved in. I know there are months of House & Home magazines in one box, but which box and what is in the others is anyone's guess.

So the plan is to be ruthless! Throw everything that has not been seen, used or worn in the last 12 months! Not sit reading old diaries, looking at old photos and trying to remember who gave me the fairy sitting on a dolphin holding a sunflower picture frame from their holiday in Playa Del Wherever circa 1998.

Then I will venture Northside to a little bit of Sweden to purchase a system. Not shelves, not a bookcase, not a DVD cabinet, but a system. A system that will house my ever expanding and ever wobbling pile of alphabetised DVDs, the books I'm unlikely to read again but will never throw out, photos from pre-digital days and boxes of cards, programmes, tickets and other memories.

This will still go ahead, I have gone so far as to ask my Dad about skip hire and have mentally pencilled in a date, when I am off work, to complete the task.

Operation Spend Less (aka Operation What The Feck Do I Spend My Money On)

Inspired by an article I read in a magazine (which cost €1.59) and motivated by curiosity and feeding the obsessive compulsive part of my brain that loves a list I decided to keep a money diary this week. 

I'm not sure what I hope to achieve by doing this. Maybe I'll scare myself into spending less time and money in the food hall in Marks & Spencer? Probably not, and I certainly won't forego my morning white coffee, but I hope it will be interesting nonetheless and I aim to share it with you when complete.   

Everything single thing I buy, with cash, debit or credit will be recorded and listed. It should appeal to the economists, the foodies and the nosey parkers among you. 

The money diary lasted about two or three days, then I forgot to keep a receipt one evening and couldn't work out how to keep track on a night out and it spiralled into a forgotten idea. Probably for the best, it was a bit scary.

Operation Lose 8lbs (aka Operation Lose 3.6287396kgs)

Eat less, move more. It's a basic principle, equation, solution. I would prefer to sit on the couch eating biscuits, but life doesn't always work out the way you want.

So I have set myself a manageable target of 8lbs. I haven't given myself a deadline, focussing on what rather than when. Though a wedding in 5 weeks and clothes that are just teetering on comfort should keep my mind, and my mouth, focussed.

I love food, good food and bad food. I love cooking and I love eating out. I love talking about food, reading about food, thinking about food and writing about food. This can work for or against me, so it's just a matter of balance.

The gym and I have long since parted ways, we just weren't meant for each other, but I'd walk till I ran out of road. Preferring to have a route and set out on my own, at a fair pace, with some music or a phone call to keep me occupied.

This might be the thing that starts and stops the most often. In the week where I was full sure I was going to make progress I went out for two lovely dinners and put back on the 2lbs I'd lost the previous week, and the wedding is now in 4 weeks! A definite work in progress.

It got me thinking, this almost unfinished but not forgotten post, but I didn't come to any conclusions. I started thinking, but didn't quite finish. So instead of thinking any more I decided to hit 'publish post' instead.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So I opened the door in my pyjamas.

Yes, yes, a funny place to have a door... ba dum tish!

On Saturday morning I woke up at 8.13am, then again sometime later, strangely blurrier and unable to read the clock, after ten. I walked downstairs, put on the kettle for coffee and put a bowl of oats, milk and raisins into the microwave.

Then the doorbell rang, a once rare occurrence in this house. There I was, standing in the kitchen, in my pyjamas, Dolores Keane hair, no dressing gown and no clue who it could be. A hostage in my own kitchen. After a few minutes I gingerly opened the kitchen door, looked out and saw a familiar, but unexpected, silhouette.

I let him in, made more coffee and continued about making and eating my porridge.

Porridge and coffee and some time gone and the doorbell rang again. Seriously!

Bolstered by my earlier experience of opening the door in my pyjamas and wondering who it could possibly be this time I went out and answered the door to... the census guy!

I hadn't put a lot of thought into this. I thought any person ringing the doorbell before noon on a Saturday would either be horrified by my purple fluffy dressing gown and lack of make up, or could be told in no uncertain terms that I didn't have any requirement for whatever they were selling.

So there I stood, in my bare feet, and I started telling him my situation and that of anyone on the street I knew. I couldn't stop myself.

Mr and Mrs Number 3 are up every night till at least 1am, the light's always on at the back of the house. Mr and Mrs Number 9 are lovely, she'll have you in for tea. The end house on the right is rented, I think, her alarm is always going off.

I had become my mother, though less appropriately dressed than she would be.

I grew up on this street, in this area, with these people. I remember doing the census here years ago, taking it oh so very seriously. He was a nice man and this was his first house, on his first day. I wanted to make a good impression, maybe to make up for my attire, but mostly because it's nice to be nice.

Must do that more often, it felt good, I should write it on my hand.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A balanced weekend..

Friday
Last day of working solo, my old manager having left at the end of December and my new manager starting on Monday. After a long, busy but boring, two months working alone I left the building with a spring in my step. Ready for the weekend.

I walked down Grafton Street, nipping into Marks and Spencer to fill my basket full of goodies for the first weekend in a few that I will spend entirely in Dublin, and with minimal plans. 

Pastries filled with spicy chicken & chorizo and feta cheese & herb, falafel, Moroccan butternut squash parcels, chilli beef empanadas and a Greek olive selection. Carrot sticks, reduced fat houmous, half fat brie and reduced fat cheddar - fooling myself. Smoked salmon and organic Italian salad. Butter basted chicken breast with lemon and herb, extra fine asparagus, tenderstem broccoli and spuds for baking. (I did warn that food would feature around here!)

Got home, took off my coat, and piled all the food into the fridge. I'd barely finished when the doorbell rang, a rare enough occurrence in this house. I went out and saw someone in a blue and red jacket through the glass. Thinking it must be the kids from down the road looking for sponsorship I opened the door and found a woman standing there with a bunch of roses. For me. Pure spoiled.

A tidy up of house and self (and a dash over to my mother with an almost-forgotten delivery of Zloty) later and the doorbell rings again, this time expected.

The food in the fridge assigned to different parts of the weekend and beginning of next week. A couple of wood fired pizzas ordered and a bottle of wine opened. Parts of the Late Late watched (The Commitments were on!). An attempt at watching a movie we've talked about for six months only for me to fall asleep.

Saturday
A lazy morning spent in bed, silence, writing and having breakfast in stages. Porridge with raisins and a huge mug of coffee, followed by a homemade scone with butter and jam.

Shortly I'll get up, do some housework, get some groceries (real food and cleaning products) and start my day properly. Possibly pop into town for a wander around the shops. Later a trip to County Swords for some dinner and wine with friends.

Sunday
Return from County Swords, eat the multitude of pastry parcels while The Match is on, and I read my book. Then in the evening a roast dinner and maybe finish that blasted DVD at last.

Some me time, some us time and some them time. A good weekend, just started.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The sky's the limit

I have developed a recent penchant for the lottery.

My Dad calls it a tax on the stupid. (He refers to hangovers as 'entertainment tax').

I've bought and / or scratched a number of scratch cards in the last couple of weeks. My three stars are in the post (but I stupidly used my Dublin address so it's unlikely I'll be called). My free ticket win resulted in a free ticket of nothingness.

Every time I start to scratch I think I'm going to win. Two €40's, two €80's, two €10,000's... Then crestfallen when I win nothing, then checking and double checking (with one eye closed to ensure accuracy - a sign of getting old) to make sure there isn't a third hiding.

Scratch cards are a new departure from the very irregular lotto ticket buying, which in itself has become somewhat more regular of late.

A panel of numbers made up of family birthdays, another panel of either friends' birthdays plus a random number or, more often, a quick pick.

I used to do it so infrequently I would have to read the instructions on the back first. Now I know how to fill in my numbers, select Plus and have even established how to do multiple draws, dangerous!

Panicked that My Numbers will come up and I won't have done them. Bitterly disappointed when I do it and I don't win. Planning what I will do with my millions.

A house in my neighbourhood for a friend who is no longer within walking distance. A Range Rover, a Jag and whatever you're having yourself. A movie to finance, maybe two. A few college funds for some little girls and boys. Whatever my family want or need. A trip to London to collect a friend, a trip to Vienna to visit many, a trip to Spain and Italy for a holiday, then off to Australia for a spin, first class.

 At 19.57 my life could change.

At 20.00, chances are, I'll be raging!

Monday, February 21, 2011

When is middle aged?

I wrote a letter today to a supermarket’s Customer Service department complaining that they had no weighing scales in their Fruit & Veg section, leaving me having to guess what 1kg of tomatoes looked like. Granted it was more the attitude of the staff member at the so-called Customer Service desk that pushed me into writing, but still it made me think. I’m old enough (and grumpy enough) to feel the need to write a letter to complain, yet young enough not to know what 1kg of tomatoes looks like. 

I’m somewhere between going out wearing uncomfortable, but gorgeous, high heels on nights out that involve drinking, dancing, shouting over the music till my throat hurts and coming home to the dawn chorus and whatever the future holds for me. Flatter shoes, earlier nights, less drinking, still dancing.

I still have to ring my Mum to ask if 25g of caster sugar is the same as 25g of sugar. It is. I still have to ask a friend if eggshells go in the brown bin. They do. 

I forget to leave the bins out. I don’t iron my sheets.

I manage a house, a home. I pay my bills on time. I cook. I clean. I go to work. 
 
I have meetings with other adults, say things that sound grown up and make sense. 
 
I come home, put on my purple fluffy dressing gown and watch Gilmore Girls. 
 
I try to eat well, cook real food, read labels and get my five-a-day.
 
I love crème eggs and crisp sandwiches.
 
Each turning point in our lives, which seem to come at intervals of about ten years, makes us feel we are in the middle. On the brink of one stage of life and another, ticking off the things on one list and forming a new one. 

0-10: True childhood. The only decisions you might hope to make are what to wear, what game to play, what book to read or what vegetables to fight over. Your whole life ahead, but someone else is still the boss of you.

10-20: Treated like a child, feeling like an adult. Pre-teen, post-primary, pre-post puberty. Leaving school, starting school. English, Irish, Maths, History, Geography, French, German, Business Studies, Science. Leaving school, starting college. Hormones, clothes, music, boys, girls, friends. Everything changing, it’s a wonder you don’t explode!

20-30: Starting off. Ready, steady, go. Leaving college, starting work. Paying rent, paying taxes. Hook ups and break ups. Travelling, changing jobs, changing hair, losing hair, spending money, saving money.

30-40: Who knows? I'm only starting. I feel in the middle again, still dipping into the past but looking forward to the future. I know what to expect, and know that what you expect isn't necessarily what you get. 

Maybe we're always middle aged? Or at least once every ten years.  

Oh and I was making soup, if you hadn't guessed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Take my eyes..

I’ve always carried an organ donor card. I’ve always told my parents my wishes, worried that I’d go to waste.

My father would wince, thinking of what would have to happen for me to give life. My mother would wince, thinking of her daughter’s eyes. 

When I was little I would go with my father to Pelican House and watch proudly, and fascinated, as he gave blood. He couldn’t watch as they put in the needle, nor as it drew blood, but he did it regularly for as long as he could. 

I remember getting ‘the owner is a donor’ pencils and ‘drive carefully, you might need me, I’m a blood donor’ car stickers. Back when I still used pencils every day and couldn’t wait to get a car just to stick up those words.

I remember working out how long it would take me to get to 20, 50, 100 donations if I started on my 18th birthday and gave every 90 days. I was much better at mental arithmetic then.

I've since started to give blood, moved on to platelets, took a break, went back to full blood, took another break and went back again. 

The first break was because I was tired. The second break was because I was stupid. I'm not on target, but I'm nearing 30 donations now, aged 31. 

I was horrified to read this Irish Times article on This Limbo  to learn that there had been a 35% decrease in organ donations last year for no good reason at all. 

Good kidneys, strong hearts, powerful lungs, lost. 

The opportunity to live a better life, a longer life, a life, gone.

A tragedy to bring hope. Two phone calls, one the worst news, the other the best. 

I struggled for years over whether or not to tick the box to donate my eyes, but not now. To give someone sight, I can't find words.

I had the conversation with my parents again this week and said if the worst happens make sure they take everything. My Dad said he'd have my wallet.

His attitude has changed over the years, I hope that the HSE and incoming government follow suit.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spring, forward.

At precisely two o’clock today I realised it was Spring. Ok so it did make my brain wobble a little and think it was March for a second, but still.

I love Spring. I think it might be my favourite season, but then I change my mind every three months or so. What I love about it is that it’s kind of like summer, without the expectation and possible disappointment. 

We have an amazing capacity to completely forget what the weather is like from one year to the next in this country. We are often shocked and horrified at all forms of weather, even rain and especially snow. 

I love how in spring the sun starts to shine, just a little bit, and makes me think that it will be a lovely summer this year. My mind turns to holidays, long evenings, lunch in the park, beer gardens, ice cream and sun cream.

To me it doesn't really matter how the summer turns out, the promise of it is more exciting than the reality. I try to remember the good days and forget the bad, cramming the sunny memories in tight.

Most of all, I can’t wait for that first venture out of the house without a jacket or coat. The freedom, grey wool cast aside for a few months (or even weeks). Leaving a fiver in the pocket to be found in late September.

What sunshine and adventures does this summer hold? No idea, but as I spend my working hours looking out at the sunshine I drift off into the possibility of it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

One down, eleven to go?

January over and not a Christmas tree lying in the back garden disposed of. Only today did I finally remember to put out the green bin containing empty Christmas cracker boxes, wrapping paper inserts and various other seasonal recyclables. 

The month saw the end of the longest cold / flu type thing I’ve ever had and the start of a month working solo while a replacement is found to sit at the other desk. 

Weekends were taken up with a half birthday party for the why-the-hell-not of it, visiting friends London, wandering around Kilkenny and holding a baking class for my friend's 12-year-old’s birthday party.

In between the weekends my moleskine filled up with lunches and dinners, a little bit of culture and plenty of sitting on the couch commentating on the ads and falling asleep during the programmes.

I have slipped on the ironing, but not on the fruit and veg. Alcohol has kept itself to the weekends, chocolate has not. Fish and red meat need some work, but I've read plenty to make up for it.

I've had my first creme egg of the season, I've paid far too much attention to the future of Fernando Torres and far less on the future of our government.

All in all not a bad month, not a bad start. There's a grand stretch in the evenings and the promise of a summer is teasing. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A little guest

For my friend's daughter's 12th birthday I am bringing her to a concert. Not one the cool kids would go to, but I don't think either of us would claim to be one of those. We're going to a piano recital in the National Concert Hall. 

I loved the National Concert Hall when I was her age. I loved it, even though I fell asleep every time. I have no doubt I will do the same this time.

So I booked the tickets and we started to plan.

She can come to my house after school on Thursday evening, have dinner here and get changed. If it's ok with you, and with her, she can stay over and I'll drop her to school on Friday morning?
 
Thursday evening is choir after school. Her Dad will drop her over afterwards. Unless she has a rehearsal for a performance. She can't remember. She'll check. They have a rehearsal but she can't go to the performance, so no rehearsal for her.

Grand so,  sorted, easy.
 
Realising that I will have to send her off to school with a packed lunch I ring my friend to check. "Does she eat ham? I know she eats cheese and tuna, but does she eat ham?". She'll eat ham.

Knowing my house usually has boring grown up cereal my friend advises me: "She'll eat Special K for breakfast". However, she is in luck, I have Cheerios.

Back to lunch and it's confirmed that she'll have a ham sandwich, and some fruit, and a yoghurt. No junk food, and that includes popcorn. 

I am momentarily puzzled by my friend's suggestion that she will take "a cup of water", wondering how she will balance the cup of water in her school bag, before realising she means a sealed cup that belongs to her lunchbox.

For dinner I know she'll eat pasta, with my homemade tomato sauce. Either with chicken or made into a bolognaise of sorts. She'd eat a bit of green salad, but makes faces at rocket. Must remember to get green salad with rocket. Chicken or mince? Which would she prefer? Do I have spaghetti? Is penne easier?

Tidy the spare room. Return bed to bed-like state instead of usual horizontal wardrobe. Change the sheets. Have words with the duvet and its cover. Climb in, get a little panicked, come out alive. Turn on radiator. Leave out guest towels.

I want her to eat well and sleep well. I want her to enjoy her evening. I want her to feel comfortable in my home.

Somewhere between babysitting and having a house guest.