We all know I love a linky, and this one from Fionnuala at Three Sons Later is just perfect for a lazy summertime blogger. What are you loving, what are you not so much loving, this summer? Hop on over to her link and read all the others.
Wait? Where are you going? I mean, after you read this one. Sheesh. Settle down.
I have a little bit of work-life balance in my summer, for the first time ever. Mabel’s in camp for the month of July, Dash is at home doing a spot of schoolwork and playing with a friend, and I have relative peace and quiet to do some work. And I have some work to do – fixing up draft 3 of book 3 of my trilogy, in between actual paying editing work for other people, which is both enjoyable and interesting. I also could be doing housework and grocery shopping and other more boring things, but it’s nice to have a reason to avoid them.
What’s more, at the end of the month I’m heading off on a five-day jaunt to Italy, to attend my best friend’s wedding. She was my one and only bridesmaid, we’ve been friends since we were seven, I always swore I’d be there, so I’ll just have to, you know, force myself. It’ll be tough, but I’ll grit my teeth and bear it.
I was stuck for dinner a while ago and aired my woes on Facebook, as you do, which yielded a lovely selection of new summer meal ideas from my friends. Since then we’ve enjoyed such delights as this salad (great dressing; I used feta and toasted my almonds a little), this other salad (very tasty, used the rest of the same dressing), and this – yes, more cauliflower – which was very quick and hugely tasty even without any olives or capers.
Less than loving
The weather, of course. They don’t call it the swamp just because of the objectionable politicians, you know. It’s swampy here in the environs of DC. Hot, humid, moist, damp, airless. Even if it’s raining, it’s hot and sweaty. (Though honestly, I prefer it raining. The sun is too shiny and it burns.)
Also, children who are older and don’t go to bed. I mean, I still love the child, but I’m not loving his bedtime. It turns out Dash only goes to bed in a timely manner during the school year because he knows he has to get up in the morning. Now that he’s not doing anything, his bedtime has disappeared, and we spend all evening exhorting him, nay, pleading with him, to just go away. I don’t care if he goes to sleep, but I would like him to at least be in his room so that we have some time to watch crap adult TV on our own before we go to bed. So far, results are mixed. Some nights he’s the last one upstairs. This is going to take some recalibration of expectations, because I suppose it’s not going away.
Definitely not loving
Ticks, mosquitoes, poison ivy, jellyfish… nature, basically, in all its less delightful forms. So far our tick count is minimal (one, on me), the mosquito bites are mounting (mostly on Dash, who scorns bug spray but I wish he wouldn’t), we’ve had two tiny patches of poison ivy, and we managed to dodge the jellies at the beach last week even though the water was too murky to spot them until it would be too late. (The waters of the Chesapeake shore are not the most crystal clear.) Oh, and I got stung on the toe by something I didn’t see when I went outside in bare feet last week. It can only get worse, probably.
Gratuitous beach photo. This is where we avoided the jellyfish.
Another linky, but this time I’m partaking, not starting. Nicola at Simply Homemade wrote a totally irresistable post – I actually had to trawl my archives to make sure I hadn’t done this already, because it seemed so much like something I’d do. (I have a lot of archives. If I didn’t tag it properly I might never find it.)
The concept is simple: a list of the songs that have been meaningful through your life. The execution… this is going to take a LOT of thinking.
Nicola already used Boney M’s by the River of Babylon, which is one of the first songs I remember, so I’ll have to pick one of the others. I could choose Brown Girl in the Ring, which I certainly remember twirling around to while it played on the radio, but I think I’ll pick this one, which is possibly the cutest song ever (listen for the plot twist at verse three) and very very redolent of my young childood. I was three the year this was the UK Eurovision entry.
Oh good lord, I’ve just realised that I could do this whole thing through meaningful Eurovision entries. I’ll try not to, but I can’t make any promises.
Honorable mention for this one, from a few years later – 1980 when I was 7. I was just a smidge young for disco dancing to this (ahem), but it’s absolutely iconic.
I have this weird random memory of being in a department-store shoe shop in London where this song was playing. (We would have been visiting my English relatives at Easter, probably.) It got under my skin and I found myself humming it for years afterwards, able to conjure up that exact moment with the chorus. I would have been 10 or 11, assuming it was playing on the radio as a new release. (This memory might be totally wrong. Maybe it was Switzers in Dublin.)
Honestly, I was never very much into music as a teen. I didn’t know where to find music, I had no older siblings to influence me, I went along with my friends’ obsessions but didn’t really find them hitting me as hard as they did them. My best friend loved A-Ha and Wet Wet Wet – I remember her playing a new album to me, me thinking it was okay but were we just going to sit around listening to it all afternoon? She also played me this old one, that her dad the Mary Black fan had introduced her to – and again, it’s a moment that has stuck in my mind, sitting on the floor in her darkened living room (curtains never to be opened for fear of fading the carpet) with the purple velvet sofa, trying hard but not quite managing to be moved by this. Apparently I had no soul.
I’ll spare you the songs I did gym routines to (though I can still name them); but I one of the first tapes I owned was Now Thats What I Call Music 10, which I played over and over. Really, though, it was a gem. At least, tape 2 was. At least, some parts of it were. This one: this one I liked a lot.
I really feel like I’ve written this post before. I bet it’s in here somewhere … anyway. One more from the school years, I think, before we go crazy at college. I could put in Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, because that was our Sixth Year song, or The Boxer, which we also sang at school, or all of Handel’s Messiah for that matter, but instead I’ll take you to the Gaeltacht where the Honours Irish class spent a weekend honing our conversational Irish before the oral exams. We went to Peig-land (i.e. the environs of Dingle) and stayed in self-catering cottages where we had a stereo on the mantelpiece and a constant argument about what music to put on. Mary Black and my George Michael album were about the only things everyone was okay with. I was very proud to be so generally acceptable.
I think we can move on up to the disco-attending years now. I should say nightclub, of course, because a disco is very naff and we were sophisticated young adults who could legally drink (at 18 in Ireland, Americans) and who went to nightclubs. I wasn’t a big drinker and I didn’t have much money, but Hollies was free for members on Wednesdays and Sundays, you could even take the Dart to Blackrock where there’d be nobody on duty to check for a ticket and walk up the long road to the Stillorgan Park Hotel, and four in a taxi back to Dalkey split up pretty cheaply. I wasn’t there for the shifting (generally speaking) or the drink, I was mostly there for the dancing. Sometimes we went to Stradbrook, and that was a rugby club disco, but you could walk home if you were really desperate and you were in a big group.
This one, which I had a lot of trouble finding because I call it The Elephant Song – for reasons that are lost in the mists of my brain – always says Stradbrook to me. And I like it better than the other absolute staple of those years, Right On Time.
I spent an Erasmus year in Spain – ’93 to ’94 – and I should probably illustrate that with The Macarena, but I’m definitely not going to do that. Let’s have some nice Crooded Hoosie (as the Spanish DJs called them) because I liked them then.
Sorry, I’ve just been lost in reverie for a while. There are an awful lot of songs I could put here for Spain – I suppose I met a lot of new people and was exposed to a lot of new-to-me, not to the world, music in that year – Neil Young, James Taylor, Pink Floyd … hmm. It was an interesting time.
I’ll put a song in here for the time when I was a young upwardly mobile professional in Dublin, during the Celtic Tiger years when all we had to spend our money on was dinners out in fancy restaurants and too much wine. And when we threw dinner parties we put on songs like this one:
B and I put together an entire CD of songs to be our wedding favors, so picking just one to stand for our relationship is tricky. I’ll go for this, which still manages to remind me of the cold-glistening Atlantic ocean off Lisbon, a mere week-long blip in our very very long-drawn-out courtship.
And, if you’ll humour me with another, our first-dance song:
Then came the extended new-music drought when I had small children and just wanted to listen to glorious silence in the rare moments when nobody was wailing or fighting, and when they would immediately yell at me to turn off the horrible music if I tried to play anything at all in the car. (The classical station got some airplay for quite a while.) These years are marked by songs we sang, in vain, to try to soothe the furious beasts. Like this one.
And gradually we emerged from that, all of us together, listening to the oldies station and the not-quite-such oldies station on the radio in the car, belatedly discovering the mainstream likes of Katy Perry and Adele, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 along with the much-overplayed soundtrack to Frozen and the odd other thing – Dash was obsessed with Steely Dan’s Haitian Divorce for a while back there. So I’ll pick the Cups Song – one of the first, and one we all still like.
I hope you got a nostalgia kick from a few of those. Now head over to Nicola’s and see what everyone else has chosen.
I can rarely resist a writing prompt, and when Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From turned her lovely recent post about her hometown of Bray into a blog link-up, I was in like Flynn.
I grew up in Dalkey, a suburb on Dublin’s south coast. It’s fairly famously posh these days, with lots of fancy foodie places and having had residents the like of Van Morrison and Maeve Binchy, and Bono just up the road in Killiney. In those days – well, in the 80s it was different. Less shiny, more grubby. The main street was always full of restaurants, though, some of which were fixtures and some of which revolved. It had a modest six pubs, four newsagents, two butchers, two greengrocers, three chemists; also the post office, Quinnsworth, Harry Latham’s gift shop, the Chinese takeaway, the chipper, and the Exchange bookshop. Let’s stop there for a moment…
The Exchange was a new and second-hand bookshop. I spent a lot of time combing through the cheapest, most tattered, children’s books, sitting on the wooden floor, finding a gem I’d been waiting for or something new that sounded intriguing. The price stickers were plain white with rounded edges and I still own books proudly sporting the price I paid for them in nineteen-eighty-something – usually around 25p. When I got older they moved up the road to a larger premises and the cheapest books were on the 50p shelf. I would bring my less-loved books down and be awarded credit for them, records kept in a rolodex on the counter by the tall man with an English accent who was always there, and then I’d happily spend the credit on more Enid Blytons, Noel Streatfields, or LM Montgomerys.
Original price stickers from The Exchange. Bargain or wha’?
Dalkey is built on hills. It has a microclimate. You can look out of your kitchen window in blazing sunlight at squalls over Dublin Bay, or Dun Laoghaire pier shrouded in dark clouds. More often, on the way home, you look up to where Dalkey should be and find it all hidden under a swathe of white fog. My school was right beside the sea; we ran up and down the laughably “all-weather” hockey pitch while a sea mist rolled in and hid the ball from those on the other side of the centre line.
I was something of a blow-in to Dalkey, only having been born and reared there. That is, my parents both hailed from elsewhere, though my father had visited on summer holidays since he was a child. His mother’s best friend was from an old Dalkey family, so really my Dalkey connections did go back generations, if I’d ever thought to bring that up.
The view from the top of my Dalkey hill
I lived in other places, in Ireland and America, before I lived here, where I live now, in a suburb of the Washington DC metro area called Greenbelt, Maryland. This is home now, but I can’t see it with the clarity of a child, low to the ground. I can only see it with practical eyes, ones swayed by thoughts of property prices and amenities and public transport and proximity to the city and decent schools and green spaces and things to do and places to go. I can’t see the granite walls and the corrugated cement underfoot and the graffiti on the lampposts, the way I do when I close my eyes and think of Dalkey.
For one thing, Americans don’t really do walls. There are chain-link fences and some picket fences, but very often people’s yards aren’t divided from the next yard at all, or from the sidewalk in front of their house. For another, the lampposts are all wooden, tall dark-stained tree trunks, so they don’t show up graffiti nearly as well as the pale grey painted metal of Dublin ones. And the sidewalks… well, I just don’t notice what’s underfoot the way I did as a child. I don’t retain the crunch of splayed beech-nut casings or the squish and stickiness of bright-red unshiny berries off the yew tree, the way I did when I walked over them day after day, autumn after autumn, pushing my bike back up the hills home.
But I’ll do my best to tell you what it’s like, all the same. It’s green and leafy. If it’s always autumn in my memories of Dalkey, it’s always spring in my thoughts of Greenbelt. In spring the blossoms here are astounding: pink and white and puce and lilac, bursting off the trees like popcorn. Every now and then you happen upon a magnolia tree: dark shiny leaves and the most enormous, decadent, creamy flowers you could imagine.
There’s a park with a lake at the bottom of our hill – I’m fated to always live in a cul-de-sac at the top of a hill, it seems; but there are worse fates – that you can walk or run or bike around, and admire the scenery and the wildlife. There’s more wildlife here than I’m used to from suburban Ireland – squirrels are everywhere, bluejays and cardinals are slightly exciting, chipmunks and rabbits still raise a squee from me, and now and then you run into a deer (not literally, one hopes) that left its wooded shelter and ventured too far. There are a few beavers in the lake, the source of an ongoing local disagreement between those who would protect the trees from the marauding beavers and those who would protect the beavers from the marauding humans. It makes for entertaining reading on the local listserv.
On the other side of the park is the town’s epicentre: the community centre, the library, the pool, the cinema, the shops. The shops are a little run down, a little tatty and old-style, because we’re tucked away and only Greenbelters come to shop in Greenbelt. But our cinema is a wonderful single-screen Art-Deco movie theatre that is lately becoming a centre for so much more than blockbusters, as my friend who runs it now shows free kids’ movies on snow days and for summer camps, cult classics after closing time, art-house and indy movies twice a day all week. There’s a farmers’ market every Sunday morning. There’s a parade on Labor Day and a festival all that weekend with rides and bumper cars and a huge second-hand book sale, and there are fireworks at the lake on the fourth of July. There’s a cafe that has terrible coffee – but it has great hummus and amazing baklava, with live music and beer on tap around the back.
And I find I have come to the heart of it right there: my friend runs the cinema. I know the staff at the pool, the cashiers at the supermarket, teachers at the schools. Some of them I know just because they work there, and some I met through school or friends or neighbours. If we go to a movie and across the way for a beer afterwards, chances are there’ll be a couple of friends in the bar. I personally am the chump who’s organizing the massive second-hand book sale for the Labor Day festival this year.
Where I live now lacks the connection with childhood memories that are deep in my soul: instead it gives me a connection with people, it makes me part of the pattern. And that’s why it’s home, too.
My mother wore a small gold watch with a delicate bracelet fastening for many years. Even long after it broke and lived in her jewellery box instead of on her wrist, it was still what I thought of as her watch, on her tanned, deft wrist. She has always worn soft, fluffy, knitted hats in pastel colours in the winter, for warmth, and to save her perm from the winds and rain. She owns a bizarrely complicated flossing contraption the like of which I have never seen anywhere else. As she uses up a lipstick it takes on a strange pointed shape, completely different from my flat-topped ones. She insists on stirring the teapot when the tea has almost brewed and then waiting another minute before pouring.
There are probably things, I got to thinking, in my life that are as clearly “me” to my children as all those things are my mother to me. They stand for much more than the sum of their parts: they are pieces of my childhood landscape and they bring with them a sensation of warmth, safety, and security. They are the elegant and the everyday; small, simple, ritual objects.
What are my objects, I wondered? What will my children think of when they think of me? (Is my laptop one of them?) I didn’t ask the kids, because it’s hard to project yourself into the future and see what will seem important then; but I took a few pictures. If you’d like to add your own blog post, there’s a Link-Up button at the end. I’d love to read it.
Thinking about my mum’s watch brought all this on, and mine is probably as much a part of me as hers was to her. I’ve certainly had it, and worn it daily, since before my kids were born, because I bought it in Las Vegas as a late birthday present in 2005. I hope to never need a new watch, because I do love this one.
I have a fancy new camera now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my little green old faithful. It’s still much handier to pop in my bag or my back pocket than the big Canon that shouts “I’m taking a picture” at you, and it’s very “me”.
This is my keyring. I’ve had it for years. It’s smooth and hard and tactile, and I admit that babies have gnawed on it, though I told them it was filthy. It didn’t have all those tiny dents and scratches when I bought it; those are life-marks.
I’m cheating a little here, because these sandals are still new. But they are so very much exactly my thing that I’m pretty sure in years to come when my kids see something like this they’ll say “Yep, those are very Mom.”
I have a new hat this year, that’s sturdier and straighter and has a lovely curve and dip to the big ol’ brim. But this is still my go-to hat for the summer, to stuff in a bag or take to the pool (it’s had a swim a few times and come out not much changed) or shove under my uxter as we run out of the house. When my kids remember summers, I’m pretty sure they’ll remember the bendy brim and nubbly texture of this hat. And the face underneath too, I hope.
It is now that vague time between the One Thing and the Other Thing when we forage in the fridge for the rest of the cheese and are mildly surprised that the need to do laundry and buy milk continues just as before. Surely one of my Christmas presents should have been an invention to take all those tedious things off my hands forever more. But no.
Anyway, the other thing that happens now is people taking stock, looking back, reviewing the year, to get all that out of the way before the looking forward and making resolutions that will be happening in a few more days. So this is my 15 for 2015, part of a linky with Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From. Pop over there and see everyone else’s 15s when you’ve read this. (Here’s mine from last year, just to see how far we’ve come.)
Most Popular Post
My most popular post, according to the stats, was the Yoda Cake one, followed by Weaning and then banana muffins. The Yoda and muffin hits come from Google or Pinterest searches, and the Weaning post was part of a Carnival of Parenting linky that gets consistent visits. But my most popular new post this year happened when I discovered a new term to judge and be judged by: Lawnmower Parenting.
My favourite photo is often just my most recent. This is especially true now that I’ve taken delivery of my lovely new Christmas-present DSLR camera that takes such beautiful crisp shots. But I do have a few other faves from the year:
This one of the Kerry mountains at Clochane strand
Or this one of the kids looking like an album cover, about a week ago
Our biggest adventure this year was a three-week trip home to Ireland where we got to travel quite a bit of the country (and see some lovely Irish bloggers) as well as spending time with family in Dublin.
My knitting fell sadly by the wayside this year: I got a lovely craft bag for Christmas last year so that I could keep it somewhere safer than a shopping tote, and somehow putting it away sounded the death knell. Also, I tried and failed at socks and didn’t do anything after that. I did (re-)learn how to crochet but I didn’t actually make anything after a few exploratory squares. But I’m planning another trip to Joanne’s any day now.
Mabel and I made some nice melty-bead Christmas tree ornaments, though.
Favourite Food I Blogged About
I didn’t do much food blogging this year, but this post from the summer covered a lot.
Most Common Theme
Ireland, America, ex-pat, and parenting are my most oft-repeated tags. But I’d say the most consistent theme this year has been writing, if that’s not too meta.
Favourite Comment Emily and Tric were my most frequent commenters. I love all my comments. No favourites.
My Best Move
I probably should say “Writing a book” but I’m going to say “Sending Dash to a new school.” He’s where he should be, progressing instead of just treading water. We haven’t sorted out his reading difficulties yet, but now I feel like I have a team of experts on the case, instead of just me, floundering.
Best Blog Moment
Did I have blog moments this year? Did my blog have moments? My blog isn’t that sort of blog, most of the time. I made the shortlist in the Blog Awards Ireland, but not the Finalists this time. I was in the running for Best Writer for the Irish Parenting Blogs Awards, though, in very good company. Tric won, more power to her.
Favourite Thing I Wrote Elsewhere Aktcherly, I had an article published in a national newspaper this year; but that was as myself so I won’t link it here. The only other writing I did elsewhere was right at the start of the year when I wrote a few pieces for the brand new HerFamily.ie website. Here’s one: Six degrees of crunchy parenting.
My Favourite Title
Let’s take this one, even though it’s an old joke: Praise Cheeses
Favourite blog-series or linky
I joined in on a few linkies this year, but I’m going to nominate my own ongoing Transatlantic Subtleties series here, because it always brings out the word geeks in my readers, and I love you all for that.
What My Blog Did For Me in 2015
My blog was the place I came to talk about how the writing was going. I haven’t really told people in real life what I’m doing with my days when the kids are in school at the moment; I’m still holding out for that moment when things come to fruition and I can announce a triumph in public. But when I couldn’t keep in the impatience any more, when I had done something and needed to tell somebody – my blog was there. Thanks, blog.Head on over to Sadhbh’s place and see the rest of the linky!
Two days after Dash was born, I remember putting on makeup before I took him to his first doctor’s appointment. It was really important to me to do that, to signal to everyone (or maybe just to myself) that I was coping fine, that I could do this, that I wasn’t going under. That I was still the same person, just with added baby.
There are so many reasons to wear makeup, and lots of them have very little do do with how you look. That said, as time has gone on and I have become more dug into my SAHM life in my hippy-commune-like town, I wear less makeup than I used to: many days it’s a swipe of lipstick at most, and even when I push the boat out and wear more, I want to keep it as minimal looking as possible so nobody asks me if I have a job interview. (Seriously, in this town it is not unheard of for people to do the school run in pyjamas. It’s pretty much the antithesis of trying to impress at the school gate.)
Also, there’s the fact that when it’s 90 degrees and humid outside, anything I put on my face is liable to just slide off immediately. So summer makeup is even more minimal.
But Sinead started a linky, and I’m joining it. Because I do have makeup, and I do enjoy wearing it, from time to time if not every day. Without further ado, my makeup:
I’ve really pared down my makeup collection in the last few years, and this is almost all I own, barring a few other crazy eyeshadows and a lot of fun nail varnishes. I could probably do with expanding it a little more in sensible directions… I’m learning a lot from the other posts in the linky, I tell you.
So it appears my tastes run to Maybelline plus a few expensive bits. I’m willing to splash out on a decent foundation if I can find one in extremely pale – I need a pink that’s blue-toned and not at all yellowy, which is hard to find. Especially in America; I usually have better luck finding something in Ireland.
I don’t wear BB cream every day, but I use it as a light base if I want to look a bit more polished. I mix it with moisturizer to make it go on more easily and because I’m paranoid about having a visible line where my foundation ends. And no matter what they claim about BB cream working for all skin tones, “light” is never anything like as light as I am. This is Maybelline Dream Fresh, which I read a couple of good review of back when BB creams were the new thing.
The Makeup For Ever compact is one of those powder base things that you can use alone or over something else, with a sponge or a brush. I had a lovely Prescriptives one that was a perfect shade, but I couldn’t find it again because Prescriptives is not a widely available brand here, and I had to get what I have now instead. I think it’s a tiny bit the wrong colour for me, but it’s okay.
The gold tube on the far right is my beloved Touche Eclat. I used to wear it all the time, but I hardly use it at all any more. Not because I don’t need it; more because it’s actually not a concealer, and because I feel it’s not blending in as well as I’d like it to. I think I need a better base, or a primer or something.
Minimal makeup for me is eyeliner on the top lid, mascara, and my new discovery of an eyebrow pencil. I think those in the picture are all Maybelline, in espresso and brownish black for the first two and “soft brown” for the third. In the last year or two I’ve discovered that the eyebrow hairs I’ve spent years plucking are finally not growing back (we shall not speak of the way they’re migrating to odd places like my upper lip instead), and I’m suddenly paranoid that I’ve overplucked and have a thin spot in the middle. So my eyebrow pencil is my new best friend and I need a new one because this is nearly gone. (I like the little brush at the end like a mascara wand for combing my eyebrows.) It probably makes no visible difference at all, but it makes me feel proactive in the matter of eyebrows.
If I’m going cuh-razy with the makeup, like for a moms’ night out or a theatre opening or something, I’ll put eyeliner on my bottom lid too and delve into the lovely Urban Decay Naked pallette I bought myself for my birthday last year. I stick to smokey browns, mostly, though I do have a chunky pencil in copper if I feel like some sparkle (not pictured).
Those are my eyeshadow brushes on the far left, because I love them, and the little black circle is Benefit Lemon Aid, which is a pretty good eyeshadow base, though in cold weather it’s a bit unyielding. I try to remember to use it.
I like a pinkish berry lip; darker in winter, lighter in summer. The Revlon Just Bitten is bizarrely good: it’s like colouring your lips with a marker, but it stays on pretty well and there’s a lip balm at the other end. (This colour is called Twilight, though it’s not as dark as that sounds.) The lip pencil is Revlon too, ColorBurst Balm Stain in Honey, it says. I bought it because a blogger I like recommended it, and it does feel nice though I’m not convinced it lasts very well. I always try to have some colour on my lips before I leave the house, the better not to don’t frighten little children.
Evidently, what I am missing is a primer, some real concealer, and some blusher. I was never very good with blusher, and bronzer is a joke for me; I’d rather look like myself, and myself is never bronzed. If you’ve any advice, have at it in the comments…
Whatever the calendar says – and you might be surprised; seasons don’t just fall differently depending on the hemisphere* – there are certain ways I can tell for sure that we really have made the leap to summer.
1. My coconut oil is liquid. I know this because I keep some upstairs in my bathroom for moisturizing purposes and this morning I opened it carelessly, expecting some sort of soft sludge consistency, and found I’d sloshed half of it out over the countertop.
2. I’m hanging the clothes on the line. Many Americans don’t line dry at all, because we have those lovely big tumble dryers that work so well. In the colder months, even in the sort of weather when all of Ireland would be busy hanging out the washing (because it’s not actually raining even if there is a fine mist in the air, and sure there’s a fine bit of a breeze), I give myself permission to use the dryer, because I have Reynaud’s and my fingers really hurt when they’re cold and damp even if it’s not actually cold cold outside. But yesterday I was actually legitimately disappointed when the washing line broke and I had to resort to electricity. I think it’s because I really enjoy the smug feeling I get from singlehandedly saving the planet every summer.
3. I have been overtaken by a strange urge to eat healthily and get more exercise. I’m even drinking water instead of tea. (Which is good because I’m less likely to need a muffin or seven to wash down my water.) This is not entirely unrelated to my recent doctor’s visit where I saw an unwelcome number on the scale, but let’s not dwell on that. It’s not about the number. It’s not about the vanity. (It is totally about the vanity, what there is of it left to me.) It’s about being fit and strong and healthy and getting my five a day. I keep looking up salad recipes. I bought a cabbage yesterday.
4. There are insects. Nobody has had a tick pulled off them yet, but it’s only a matter of time. I have yet to see a mosquito either, but I keep meeting an ant in the house. I”m convinced it’s the same little fecker every time – he’s about the size of a small puppy, and every time I put him outside I tell him not to come back, but a few hours later there he is again. Even when I squash him and put him in the bin, he gets resurrected. Fecker.
5. I want white wine, not red. A nice cold Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Grigio, maybe a vinho verde. I like my whites crisp and refreshing and tasting of almost nothing, but in a good way. No Chardonnay, thanks.
6. We have all stopped caring about school. Homework, schmomework is my new motto. I have to remember not to say it in front of the kids.
Baseball mom laundry
*In Ireland, it’s already officially summer. Summer runs from May 1st to the end of July. Yes, August is technically an autumn month, though I never understood that. If you’re on summer holidays, it’s still summer. Weatherwise in Ireland, September is often much sunnier, and maybe warmer, than July, too.
In America, as I have mentioned before, summer doesn’t start until the solstice. Yes, even though it’s called Midsummer’s Day and you’d think there’d be a clue in there somewhere, they say that June 21st is the beginning of summer. And then it goes all the way to the equinox, in late September. Weatherwise, mind you, that makes a lot more sense, as it usually doesn’t start to cool down till October.
It’s been a fairly good week for dinners around here, I think. Though oddly light on pasta. nAs always in my house, no children were necessarily fed in the ingestion of these meals, but your house might be different.
Working backwards, we had the following: Saturday: Sausages and mash and broccoli.
There’s some caramelized red onion in the potato. I recommend it.
Friday: Quesadillas: onion and red pepper, chicken and beans. Cheese. Tortillas. Melty goodness with avocado and/or sour cream on top. No photo, sorry. Bad blogger.
Thursday: Chicken korma out of my Madhur Jaffrey book. (It’s basically this one.) I thought there’d be enough left to be half of the next day’s dinner, but someone took it to work for lunch. I only discovered this recently, but for me it’s essentially a store cupboard recipe once I have the chicken (you can even use milk+butter for the cream, though real cream is nicer) because I have a decent collection of spices and I even had the almonds. I put in frozen peas right at the end and was too lazy to make rice because we had naan bread.
Wednesday: Homemade pad-thai with tofu. I had used this recipe before (with tofu instead of pork and some other veg substitutions), to moderate success, but this time I was out of oyster sauce so I just used quite a lot of lime juice. It wasn’t great, but hey, it was dinner. I forgot to take a photo, sorry.
Tuesday: Meatballs in tomato sauce. I blogged this before so I can just send you here. It was much the same except no cauliflower. I stirred in some spinach leaves at the last minute for extra vitamins.
I was halfway through before I remembered the photo. You’ll see that’s a theme here.
Monday: The same meatballs with spaghetti. No photo. Use your imagination. And I made Key Lime Pie which was only delicious.
This post is part of a linky from Sinead at Bumbles of Rice. Go read what everyone else is eating!
It’s an end-of-year linky! Sadhbh started it, I’m just jumping on the bandwagon. But it seems like the right time for a little look back. 2014 was the year I moved to WordPress and got my very own .com URL for the blog. I still haven’t fixed my linkbacks, but other than that, I’m pretty happy about making the move.
I feel like my blogging took a back seat a little during the year, and I didn’t really gain many new readers; but it was a springboard to other things that I really enjoyed, like the wonderful experience I had working on and writing for Parent.ie (currently on hiatus), which I wouldn’t have missed for anything.
1. Most popular post
Apparently the most popular post of the year was Banana Butterscotch Muffins with a Healthier Twist. This is not because it’s a scandalous exposé of my private life, but probably because I pinned it and it’s the sort of thing that comes up in google searches, so it’s guaranteed a few hits every day.
However the most popular post on a single day was Little Americans, because I used it to audition for Listen To Your Mother and it was linked to from their website. (Or somebody’s website connected with it. I can’t actually figure out exactly where it was now.)
2. Favourite post
This is really really hard. These posts are my babies, you know. I can’t just pick one. The best I can do for you is to give you a quick run down of the year in posts.
3. Favourite photo
All my favourite photos go on the blog. But I am particularly fond of this one.
4. Best adventure
Well, we went to Italy. That was pretty good. I also had an adventure of my own when I flew solo to Dublin in November.
5. Favourite craft
This was the year of the knitting, although we did have a brief snow-induced flirtation with elastic band bracelets and melty beads too, and we discovered that real watercolour paper makes all the difference. But knitting was definitely the winner.
6. Favourite food I blogged about
This year I found a new food – beetroot (or just beets, if you’re American). It was a revelation, even if nobody else in the family agreed.
8. Favourite comment
I don’t have a favourite comment, but I can tell you that Emily and Joanna were my most frequent commenters this year. I love comments, but I love engaging on Facebook and Twitter too, so don’t be afraid to tell me what you think in whatever medium you like best.
9. Favourite celebration
I think it has to be Halloween, even though we obviously had two birthdays and Christmas and Easter as well. Halloween was busy in the best way, and it’s one of the most fun times to live in this neck of the woods.
10. My best move
Easy – it was getting involved with Parent.ie. I learned a ton about writing and SEO and professionalism and working with people you never meet, and I made some of the best friends I have, and I had a connection with home that is hard to replicate.
11. Best blog moment
I was very happy to get to the finals of the Blog Awards Ireland this year, having been at shortlist stage last year. I monitored the awards ceremony on Twitter and Facebook and apparently it was just like having me at the table because the Twitter feed was coming in on a big screen the whole time. If I’d only known, I’d have worn some mascara too.
12. Favourite thing I wrote somewhere else
I wrote a lot on Parent.ie. I really did. Sometimes it was exhausting thinking of new stuff, and I have to admit that sometimes they were just taking up space more than words I’m really proud of, but I did really like this one, and it seemed to resonate with a lot of people: Terrible Truths Nobody Tells You. (These posts are all currently hosted at the Irish Parenting Bloggers‘ site.)
14. What my blog did for me in 2014
Don’t laugh, okay, but I think what happened this year was that I started to think of myself as a creative person for the first time ever. I’d always put the word “creative” in a box with the word “artistic”, and neither of those things applied to me. But between one thing and another, my definitions are breaking down and softening up and it’s just possible that I’m allowed to be creative after all.
External validation is good too. Remember I won a blue ribbon?
Helen at The Busy Mama’s asked me to join in her linky about the things you’ll miss when you don’t have babies any more. “I’d love to,” I thought. “Just let me think about what those things could possibly be…”
I loved having babies. (Well, just one at a time, I mean.) But when I stopped to think what it was that I loved about it, I wasn’t quite sure. Their delicious chubby thighs, their little wiggling fingers, watching them grow and learn and discover the world? Yes, all those things. But babies are also just basically little pink slugs, lying around (or, worse, propelling themselves into everything) waiting for you to change them and feed them and try in vain to make them sleep at some time that might make your life easier instead of harder. What’s to miss, really, I wondered…?
Then I got it. The thing I’ve been vaguely nostalgic about lately. The thing that was so wonderful about having my own little babies was the exact same thing that was so terrible, so daunting, and such a millstone around my neck – their total and utter dependence on me.
It’s just, it’s pretty special, that feeling, when you’re the one who puts them to sleep and wakes them up, the soft body they look for to press themselves against when they’ve gone bump, the one whose touch can stop them coughing at night, the one they want to fall asleep beside. (It’s also suffocating and terrifying, but let’s not dwell on that aspect.)
I feel like I’m not selling this very well. I know, of course, that I wasn’t the only one, and some lucky babies even have more than just two of those people who are that special. I also know that I could be special to another baby in time, even if it’s not exactly my own.
But there – that’s the thing. It’s having my own. Maybe I’m just selfish. Maybe I liked the limelight-by-association that I had as mother-of-cute-baby (and every baby is cute, of course). Maybe it was the pride in knowing that I grew this baby in my own body and nourished it with my own milk and here it is growing and learning and laughing and crying and wanting to be with me, more than anyone else. Being so totally attached to and entwined with another being that you wake when they wake and feel pain when they cry.
It can’t last, that time. Nor would you want it to. Which is what makes it so precious, so fleeting, so hard to live in the moment.