Heartburn, Bread Pudding and October Books.

Nora Ephron's Heartburn. Bread Pudding.

Nora Ephron‘s Heartburn made me laugh and made me cook. I built my October Cooking the Books column around her recipe for bread pudding. Read more by clicking here. Trust me, this one is worth it.Nora Ephron's Heartburn. Bread Pudding.

I get a particular satisfaction out of reading books in the appropriate season and it is all the sweeter when I can match reading material to the month at hand. Am I alone?

The Hunt For Red October. Tom Clancy

I compiled a list of October books, strictly those which have October in the title. You can read that by clicking here.

I would write more for you but I’ve used up all my time on France (that sounds better if you sing it to the tune of This Charming Man); 9,000 words –I’ve made it to Midday on Saturday. I can’t stop now, I’m committed to it.



Getting back on the horse.

‘I’ve been showing off, it’s a soothing feeling.’
Winifred Watson, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day.

I have fallen off the blogging horse and it was that line, from a book about grabbing life by the horns, ironically enough, which threw me.

It made me think about what I’m doing here. I hadn’t considered before that much of the pleasure I’ve taken from blogging has, in fact, been due to the soothing effects of showing off. I’m not certain that my garden, over-run as it is with dandelions, or my amateur attempts at cooking, however excellent my cheese toasties, are good enough to merit boasting about.

Besides that, for a stay-at-home parent the school holidays demand a different rhythm. There is the pleasure of time spent helping the Small Girl with her Country House Sticker Book, you can probably guess that book was really a little present for myself, oh, the joy of it, and playing Paper Dolls and doing things for which there is no internet link, like picking bowls of white currants together and chasing butterflies.

The summer holidays also bring the complementary penance of never having ten minutes alone which makes any type of writing an almost impossible endeavour.

What little quiet time I have carved out has been spent at work. The highlights:

Tragically tardy, here is a link to my July edition of Cooking The Books. I chose a light and frivolous book, ideal for a bit of mindless beach reading. While the title may be less than appetising, the recipe, mind you, is seriously delicious. No-one has eaten my quiche (my mother’s quiche, to be exact) without asking for the secret to it’s light and, dare I say, frivolous texture.IMG_7848

Sarah Healy tweeted that my article on her book was a ‘candid, beautiful review’ which gave me quite the thrill. A review of the review, eh? It meant a lot to me. Click here to read about The Sisters Chase.IMG_7800 (2)

To the cohort of Persephone fans out there, thank you again for inviting me to join your ranks. I contacted the wonderful women at Persephone Books and they sent me reams of information and some gorgeous photos for this article: Though she be but little, she is fierce!IMG_8079If you haven’t yet come across Persephone Books, can I plead with you take a look? They are very special.

Last week was enjoyably spent testing recipes from Valeria Necchio‘s gorgeous new cookbook, Veneto. This, truly, was a labour of love. Our happiest days of newly-wedded bliss were lived in the Veneto. Teenage Son, my eldest, was born there and cut his teeth on the region’s crusty bread. It was a shock to realise how long ago it was but also how much the food, and a glass or two of Prosecco, still has the power to bring it all back. Click here to read my review of Veneto.


So tardy am I with this post that the time has come round to tell you about the August edition of Cooking The Books. Having taken the light and frivolous route for July, I opted this time for a classic. Both the book, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and the dish, Crabe Mexicaine, are mouth-watering. Click here for a sneak preview of Eat Like Hemingway.

Still, I am circling that horse and thinking it looks a bit too high for me. If I could only do it half-heartedly, without revealing too much of my self, it would be grand. But I can’t. I’ve decided to take a short break, to enjoy the summer, fleeting as it is, and to live life for a while without forming it into sentences in my head.

Follow me on Bookwitty for book reviews, book lists, books cooked and all things bookish.
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Thanks for sticking with me,

In times so long ago begins our play…

Othello, text.

Our house is wrapped up in a ball of nerves. State exams are looming large and each of my two examinees is stewing in their own particular brine of combined panic and determination.

To escape the fumes, the smaller girls and I have been gallivanting more than usual. Last Saturday we donned our glad rags and went to a junior Proms concert at City Hall. The Cork Youth Orchestra played a jolly selection of sing-a-long pops songs ( mostly ABBA), hits from musicals (mostly Annie) and movie soundtracks.

‘The Star Wars part was the best, Mum, wasn’t it?’ reminisced Small Girl this morning as I plaited her hair, ‘because they had storm troopers and everything?’
‘Uh huh, yes.’ I’m not a big talker until that first coffee hits the basal ganglia.
‘And it was brilliant when they mixed in the Harry Potter music too. I like the really old Harry Potter music.’
‘Because Harry Potter came first, didn’t it Mum, because books always come before films,  don’t they?’ and it dawned on me that things that happened before you were born are all muddled together in a difficult to grasp and somehow irrelevant long ago, even if you are only five.
‘Well, yes, the Harry Potter books came before the Harry Potter films but the Star Wars  films were made before that. The first Star Wars film was made a long time ago, when I was exactly your age.’
‘In a galaxy far far away?’ This girl, she makes me laugh.

That’s a rather long preamble (and it might get longer yet) into the book I want to tell you about. I’ve read that book purchasers are amongst the most brand loyal of all consumers. When we find an author we like, we will stick with them, preferring to invest our money and time in a sure thing than risk giving an unknown author a chance. Are you like that? I am, absolutely. Tracy Chevalier (The Virgin Blue, Girl With a Pearl Earring) is an author whose books I would buy without hesitation so I was very excited when I saw that she was involved in the Hogarth Shakespeare Project and doubly pleased that her chosen (or is it assigned?) Shakespearean play was Othello.

I studied Othello for my Leaving Certificate (ah, the whiff of exam pickle returns) so I know it. I mean, I’m no scholar but I got it, you know? I had a wonderful teacher, the kind they make movies about. She took Othello apart and put it back together again until it all made sense and, what’s more, it made sense of everything (if there is someone reading this who can send my love and gratitude to Bean Uí Chinnéide, please do).

Othello, text.

We journeyed to Dublin on a bus so that we could see a black man play Othello. I might even have finished that last sentence at ‘see a black man’ full stop. Mind you, we didn’t dwell on the racism angle because Othello is about so much more than that. It’s about being different and courageous with it, being different and even proud of it. It’s about fear of the unknown and how we act to quell that fear. It’s about control, power, mind games, beauty, nobility, truth…it is dark and it is brilliant.

Just as dark and illuminating is New Boy. Tracy Chevalier has set her retelling of Othello a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. Othello in a school playground of the 1970s. How flipping genius is that? Read my full (and marginally less rambling) review here.

By the way, for those who would have preferred Star Wars in iambic pentameter, this is amusing:

Now, I must go and attend to another pot of pickle. As a direct result of my solemn oath to be a true and honest tester of recipes, there is a fizzing jar of fermenting cabbage waiting to be ‘burped’…more on that anon.

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‘The book doctor will see you now.’

Adding a final flourish to PJ Lynch's art at Lismore Castle.

That’s what they said, seriously, and Small Girl got such a kick out of it. Let me explain.

We traveled, on excellent advice from Welovelittlethings, to the Towers and Tales Story Festival at Lismore Castle.

Traditional shop front. Lismore. Ireland.

Lismore is a quiet, picture book quaint, Irish village smack bang in the middle of exactly nowhere. Apparently, the townsfolk were ecstatic in 2015 when they got a bus shelter.

Defunct shop window. Lismore, Ireland.

You do, however, get the impression that it was a much busier place in a long bygone era.

Mc Grath's butcher shop, Lismore, Ireland.

In actual fact, Lismore has a cathedral, which makes it a city, albeit a remarkably tiny one.

Lismore Castle. Co. Waterford, Ireland.

Lismore Castle is a real, proper castle, built in 1170 as a bishop’s palace before becoming home to Sir Walter Raleigh (yes, he of the potatoes, the tobacco, and the cloak on the puddle story). On Raleigh’s demise the castle was taken by Elizabethan colonist, Richard Boyle. Boyle’s son Robert was THE Robert Boyle, as in ‘father of modern day chemistry‘ and Boyle’s Law Boyle.  Since 1775, the castle has been owned by the Duke of Devonshire (not the exact same duke, well, let’s hope not). The Astaires, The Mitford sisters, Cecil Beaton and JFK are just a few of the names in the guest book. No matter what age you are, this place is built from the stuff of fantasy. I just checked out the website; you have to apply for a secret code to access an inner, concealed website where the rental prices are. I didn’t go that far for fear my credit card would have shriveled up in horror.

Lismore Castle, Waterford, Ireland.

The castle is not usually open to the public so it was a real treat to get a peek inside. It was, mind you, a well-guarded peek. While the guest writers (Michael Morpurgo, Lauren Child, Ryan Tubridy and more) were staying in the castle we lesser mortals were confined to the courtyard.

To keep us from peering though keyholes, we were encouraged to add a final flourish to some wall art by Children’s Laureate P.J. Lynch. Small Girl felt that P.J.s palate was very limited and that the vital element was, without doubt, a big pink flower.Adding a final flourish to PJ Lynch's art at Lismore Castle.

The highlight for me was the poet Tony Curtis who told stories, recited poems and sang songs to a small guitar, all inside the shelter of a tent while rain kept time on the canvas. A proper troubadour.

Tony Curtis at Lismore Festival.

From Tony, we raced to our appointment with the Book Doctor. The girls waited nervously in the waiting room while the doctor’s assistant filled in their Reading Passports and made a note of their particular bookish likes and dislikes.

Dr. Juliette then sat down with each of the girls in turn, assessed their reading temperature and prescribed the appropriate treatment. Absolutely brilliant. I so wish they had a grown-up department.

CBI passport and book prescription.

The Book Doctor is run by Children’s Books Ireland, keep an eye open for them at festivals around the country and don’t miss an opportunity to get their specialist opinion. Irish, Munster, and especially Cork readers might be interested to read their interview with Jessica O’Gara (wife of rugby legend, Ronan) about reading with their bi-lingual children in France.

Small Girl’s most memorable moment, other than a gigantic icecream cone, was an encounter with the waffleword-spouting BFG. He might not have been quite 24 feet tall in real life but he had me convinced.

IMG_6539I found out about this festival a month ago and by then all the ‘big name’ events were already booked out. Thankfully, the only event with tickets remaining was with Sarah Crossan who is Middle Daughter’s new favourite author. It feels like all of five minutes since she was obsessed with Jacqueline Wilson but, God help me, she has made the leap to Young Adult.

IMG_6549 (2)

It’s a bit scary when your child moves from reading children’s books  that you can consider safe to reading YA fiction which, it seems to me, goes out of its way to deliver all the horror the world has to offer. What’s more, the higher the quality of YA literature, the more depressing it seems to be. I must admit that I’m struggling with this at the moment.

Sarah Crossan YA books.

I’m shadowing my twelve year old’s reading but not censoring it. I have to believe that they will hear about all the shite, racism, sexism, bullying, parental abuse, you name it, one way or another and, at least, these books offer some degree of guidance on how to deal with it. Also, I want to keep her reading.

Brian Conaghan (also pictured above) remarked that one of his books, about a boy with Tourette’s Syndrome, has been banned in several regions due to excessive swearing. Clearly, I’m not alone in my confusion about what is and is not appropriate reading for this age group.

How do other parents of young teenagers feel about their reading habits? Help me out here!

I’ve about thirty pages left to read in We Come Apart which Sarah Crossan co-wrote with Brian Conaghan. So far, I’ve been by turns appalled by the gritty nature of the content and impressed by the extremely impressive writing and pure genius of the collaboration. I’ll let you know more when I’ve finished.

Sweet Pizza by G.R. Gemin.

My Cooking The Books article for Bookwitty.com this month features a wonderful book called Sweet Pizza by Italian-Welshman G.R. Gemin. I was hugely honoured that Giancarlo emailed me to compliment my minor variations on the theme of his excellent recipe. Interestingly, he mentioned that the book is sometimes pushed into the category of YA fiction simply because it contains some (minimal, I promise you) swear words. I can’t say I even noticed any swear words. It’s a truly lovely book. For the review, and the recipe, Click here.

Grow your own lunch.

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, I also wrote up an article last week which has been, quite literally, growing on my windowsill for the last two months. As we all know, I am of the most haphazard and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants variety of gardeners so, if I can grow my lunch on a windowsill, anybody can. Read more here.

I’m off to plant more radishes. Have a great weekend.

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Heatwave, Father Ted, Father Dougall, The end Of The Ice Age, bookwitty,

A hot, golden hush has fallen.

Just the slurp of a raspberry smoothie and sporadic sploosh in the pool.


I bet you didn’t know that July 19th marks the anniversary of the end of the ice age. Don’t believe me?

I slipped out of bed at the misty crack of dawn to write an article for Bookwitty. I was challenged to find ten convincing reasons to grow your own food. It turned out that the eleventh was the clincher. Read it here.

Right now I should be tackling a mounting pile of laundry, picking peas, digging spuds, walking the dog, covering schoolbooks or making a birthday cake. Instead I am compiling a list of convincing reasons to sink into a long, iced coffee.

Ballymaloe House and Gardens.

Peregrine peach. Walled garden. Ballymaloe House.

Ballymaloe House

The farmyard at Ballymaloe was a hive of activity during Litfest 2016, thronged with celebrity participants and eager foodies. Pork crackled on spits and craft cider was swilled with an air of orgiastic revelry.

Just a stone’s throw away, the gardens remained an oasis of serenity and order.

Wild garlic. Ballymaloe House.

The walled kitchen garden was a particular delight.

Walled Garden. Ballymaloe House.Sea Kale. Walled garden. Ballymaloe House.Beans. Walled garden. Ballymaloe House.orchard. walled garden. Ballymaloe House.Cherry cherokee. walled garden. Ballymaloe House.

I was wildly impressed to see these cherries ripening against a wall. My mind is spinning with possibilities…if I only had a wall!

But then, these beauties took my breath away. I couldn’t resist rubbing my thumb against the, well, peachy skin. Wonderful.

Peregrine peach. Walled garden. Ballymaloe House.


A few links I liked:

I bought some seeds from Brown Envelope Seeds. http://www.brownenvelopeseeds.com/

They have a huge selection, beautifully packaged and their brown paper catalogue is a thing of beauty in itself. Their blog is fascinating.

Brown envelope seeds.

They have some cute gift box ideas. I thought the idea of giving new parents the seeds to grow their baby’s first dinner was a sweet one. Wouldn’t this be a fantastic baby shower gift?

Brown envelope seeds

Impressed as I am by Teenage Son’s talent as a whittler (read here), I have been drooling over Hewn.ie. Eamonn has the embryo of a very well written blog and it’s just impossible not to like him. It’s quite shocking to the system when you come across a talented craftsman and your first thought is, ‘his mother must be very proud’.

hewn.ie. Eamonn O'Sullivan. Handmade spoons. Litfest.ie

Middle Girl went on a school tour yesterday to The West Cork Secret (http://www.westcorksecret.ie/) and had the time of her life. If you are looking for somewhere you can bring your kids to, literally, roll around in the mud, this is your spot.

Keeping it Local, I bought chocolate and cocoa husk tea from Clonakilty Chocolate . The chocolate is amazing. It’s not cheap but they deliver free in Ireland. The jury is split on the tea. I like it and have discovered that I can make the tea and then use the tea to top up an espresso, making a chocolate-hinted Americano. Now that is stupendous. I could start a new trend.

That’s my lot.

Enjoy your weekend,




Extroversion and Links I Liked.

#stuffstuckonmyfridge instagram social media links

I’m an introvert. I’m quiet, sensitive (probably highly sensitive) and shy.

Why then am I so keen to share my innermost thoughts with the Whole Wide World?

I’m reading A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson. It is, so far, a magnificent book. I’m reading very slowly because this book is so good, it literally hurts to read it. My chest constricts and my eyes pinch. Anyway, I came across a familiar phrase (I’ve been banging this into Teenage Son for a decade) in a novel context.

‘Show your workings.’

A comment by a maths teacher on a homework copy and a comment by a suspicious Husband on his wife’s behaviour.

I’ve often thought that people consider me odd or strange, quirky at best. The answers that I have come up with to life’s problem sets may be unconventional. Just a wee bit, mind you, I’m not a crazy, colourful hippy or anything (although that might just be my heart’s secret desire).

So, here I am showing my workings.

If you enjoy what you read here you might like to follow my Instagram page (click here) which has become a sort of lazy mini-blog that gets updated while I’m stirring a pot or holding the garden hose with the other hand.

I enjoy Instagram enormously but I do think you have to put a bit of work in to refine your feed until it is a visual feast. Lately, I have been particularly enjoying @zeensandroger for crochet, @ladyaga for homeliness and @fingalferguson for knife porn (a bit odd, I know, but weirdly satisfying). I’ve also been glued to @litfestie because I’m going to litfest on Sunday (Yippeeeee! I may even get to see some Fingal Ferguson knives in the flesh).

Take a look at my profile to see everything I follow. I’m going to be a little bit boastful here and say that I think I have done a pretty good job of curating a beautiful Instagram feed. It makes my little quirky heart beat faster on a thrice daily basis (yes, I am addicted).

Oh, I had an idea (those are the words that keep my Husband awake at night). I posted a picture yesterday with the hashtag #stuffstuckonmyfridge. Feel like joining me? Post a photo of something that’s stuck on your fridge and add the hashtag #stuffstuckonmyfridge.  Just for a laugh, and nothing X-rated please although a full fridge frontal would be fine.

#stuffstuckonmyfridge instagram social media links

I’m signed up to twitter but find I can’t tweet. I’m not sure why. It’s a bit busy for me. I feel like I’m sitting in a noisy pub and there is no way my voice will be heard so I don’t bother trying. ’tis not for me.

Pinterest, to be frank, is where I go to vegetate. I’m usually semi-comatose when I resort to Pinterest so my account is not nearly so well curated as my Instagram but I have a couple of very pretty boards.

I spent a rainy Sunday gathering pins of celebrities photographed in the Piazza San Marco (click here). If you click nothing else, do not deprive yourself of the beauty of this one pin. Takes my breath away.

I have another board, Bellezza (click here), devoted to beautiful pictures of famous people (and/or famous pictures of beautiful people). Paul Newman features. If you are a pinner, feel free to send me relevant, beautiful pictures.

Right, enough of me.

Here are some links I liked this week:

Yarn Harlot. Another comedic knitter, this time a Canadian. I’ve linked to the first post I came across, which had me in stitches (ouch). I love the tone of this blog.

This left me in tears, of relief mostly that I am not the only one:

An Open Letter to the Adorable Young Couple Leisurely Strolling By As I Frantically Usher My Children into My RAV4

I find I like Canadians. The Belle Jar   may be a slightly caustic blog but it acts as an astringent to the predominant sticky sweetness spread all over the web. I don’t think Husband refers to me, his darling wife and life partner, by any of these metaphors but I suppose, if he did, he would hardly tell me. There is some great writing here.

Right, all this sharing has made me want to go hide my face behind a book.

Have a great weekend.





Brand and Growth and Links I Liked.


Small Girl was right. The sun has come out. The sky is blue all over, all the way round, a perfect shimmering sky blue.

So that’s why they call it sky blue, eh? I had almost forgotten.

Brand and growth blogging course, set three goals, blogging 201, #bloggingbranding,

Down to business.

I have signed up for the wordpress Brand and Growth blogging course. Is anybody else having a go? It will be ten days of tasks to complete by the end of which I shall be transformed into a seriously influential blogger, a proper mover and a shaker.


Okay then, being realistic, I will hopefully get some guidance about what I’m supposed to be doing here. I am supposed to answer these questions:

Why do I blog? 

I ask myself this all the time and the only true answer is this; because it feels good. I’ve always been a writer of letters and this is my writing comfort zone. I’m sending a letter into the universe and hoping that a few like-minded souls will, at least, send up a smoke signal in reply. It makes me feel that, even if I am isolated here in my quiet house, there are people just like me, out there, beyond the wide blue fence.


If my blog exceeded my wildest dreams what would it look like?

A woman on the other side of the world sits in a coffee shop reading an obscure and unfashionable book. Her friend arrives, drops her bag and takes a seat.

‘What’s that you’re reading?’ asks the newcomer.
‘Oh, you’d love it,’ says the woman,’Sultanabun recommended it’. 
‘Really? Then I must read it’.

Something like that 🙂

I would also really like to find a way of making money from this blog so that I can keep doing it forever and never stop because I love it.


Set three concrete goals for your blog.

  1. Followers. I would be lying if I claimed not to care how many followers I have. Of course I do and I want more! So far, I have a total of 150 which is paltrey compared to others. I would claim that mine are high calibre followers; they read and comment and care. I’m going to set a goal of reaching 200 followers by September 1st. I have no clue how to make that happen but I guess that’s what this course is for.
  2. The first regular feature, which I began yesterday, will be a monthly garden update. I’ll let you know what’s growing, what’s blooming, what we are eating from the garden and what the slugs got first. I’m making a vow to be completely mostly honest with absolutely no very little selective cropping of pictures.
  3. The next regular feature, which I will begin today, will be a selection of my favourite links and tidbits from around the web. Let me know what you think.



Right. Let’s do that.

Drumroll please…..ta daah:

Links I Liked This Week.

Well, that was a bit underwhelming.

Get a free t-shirt from Bookwitty.com

I came across this site by chance. It is a book-selling, book-loving, book-talking site. They have a hub in Toronto and a new office in Dublin. If I have understood correctly, they are selling books worldwide through a network of independent bookshops. That seems like a great idea. I buy lots of books from Amazon but I do feel traitorous as I one-click a book.

Bookwitty also feature a wealth of bookish articles and conversations and they encourage users to contribute. I liked this article by Dr. Ken Beatty about fostering a love of reading in children.  I have linked some of my reviews to the relevant topics so, if you come across them, I would be grateful if you could give me a like. They call it a wit.

I signed up on wednesday night and received an email yesterday to tell me that I am one of the first 1000 followers which wins me a free t-shirt. If you get in there quickly you might get lucky.

Just to be clear, I am not affiliated to Bookwitty but I would like to contribute to the site.

Give up dieting. 

This is a great article. When I was in college I had an option to study nutrition. I regret having dismissed it in favour of food chemistry and I’m fascinated by the subject now.

While I remain a lazy, lardy lump, I have been making an effort to walk the dog more often and a little farther.

Watch James Cordon.

Am I the last person on the planet to watch the James Cordon youtube channel ? Just in case I’m not, link to it here.

I’m sorry to rush you, my friends, but I need to get out there with a trowel, or maybe just an iced coffee. Have a great weekend.

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