Food memories…Christmas 1997 or 1998 ?!

I have to state for the record that I had barely started cooking at this point and really didn’t have a clue what I was up to!  Despite good, clear instructions from my lovely Mum!  Anyway…I should tell the story first so you know what I’m actually talking about.

untitled (2).pngI lived in New York for a few years and subsequently spent a few Christmases away from home.  Not my most memorable but I will say they weren’t completely miserable, with the exception of one.  And even that wasn’t completely miserable but it was pretty damn close.  I was living with 3 sisters, one of whom is one of my closest friends from secondary school.  I loved living with the girls; Owl, Woolie, Minnie and me (Crabby – obviously no reflection on my happy go lucky demeanour! 🙂 ).  Our two bed apartment in Queens imagesD7JDSN3Swas a temple of femininity and giggles (and our fair share of frustrations and all that).  The girls were all living in the US with green cards.  I, however, was not and didn’t have the flexibility to travel home for Christmas.  My family at home decided that they didn’t want me to be alone this particular year and much to my protest, elected to send my brother John over to me for two weeks (whether he wanted to or not, I should add).  John’s about 18 months older than me and at that stage, was pretty much in his own world of alcohol and rage and being in New York for Christmas was not on his bucket list.  Anyhoooooo, we made it to Christmas day in one piece, more or less… and by the luck of the Gods, we made it out the other side!! 😀  We were joined by another guy, a friend of the girls, Joe Woolhead, who was on his own for Christmas too.

I had a plan…kind of…in my head… a loose string of things to be done in a semblance of order.  It just ran a little late in the beginning.  Which is where the problem lay.  I took my rock solid frozen turkey out of the freezer around midday on Christmas eve thinking in grand Irish style ‘Ah sure, It’ll be grand!’.  I had never cooked a turkey before, fresh or defrosted so this was new ground altogether.  Christmas morning, John and I opened our presents – both of us wishing we were imagesN1CV4V7Ksomewhere else.  I entered the kitchen and prepared my turkey…plopped it into the roasting tin on a base of carrots, onions and celery and seasoned it – covered it in tinfoil and into the oven.  I tried to make my Mam’s stuffing and it was just like it, that is if my Mam’s stuffing is dry, sawdust like with no flavour!!  My roast potatoes weren’t actually that bad, thanks be to Jaysus!!  And my carrots and parsnips were grand, nothing to write home about!   Joe arrived with his packet of biscuits and we watched some telly while the turkey finished cooking.

And so after hours and hours of cooking, then resting, it was time to unveil my bird and expose her succulent thighs!  Well, I was excited and the lads were starving so I got to work.  I carved the first slice off the imagesXEOK52H5breast and thought to myself ‘Well done Crabby!  This doesn’t look too bad’  It smelled lovely too.  I went in for the second…thinking Hmmmm that looks ok… then the third and my stomach lurched.  My heart started beating rapidly…I couldn’t actually carve the third slice all that easily and I could plainly see that it was still frozen!!! Holy F*CK!!!  ‘Alright in there Incey??’ called John from the sitting room (my family nickname).  I gulped and croaked in reply ‘Yeah…Grand… two minutes and you’ll be feasting like Kings!!’  Straight away, I thought to myself…What the hell am I talking about???

So… I did what any sane person would do – I carved the outer layer off the turkey (a.k.a. the cooked layer) and served that to John and Joe.  Covering it with gravy, stuffing and all the rest of the stuff.  I covered the turkey up with the tinfoil again and I shoved it back in the oven so I didn’t have to look at it.  I didn’t actually have any turkey…just the rest of the stuff!  I mean the legs hadn’t even cooked through – it was salmonella or some sort of e-coli poisoning just begging to happen.  So I sat there and sweated through dinner and dessert but thankfully no-one passed out or abruptly had to visit the loo!  By the skin of my teeth, all remained well with the world.

Since then, I have learned to cook… properly… and safely.  I swear!  😀

 

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Make mine a Hot Port…heavy on the cloves…and the Port!

I’ve been a bundle of snifflin, sweaty, phlegm (hate that word!) hacking, limbs-like-lead, moanin groanin joy since Saturday afternoon!  Who’s with me??? I know I can’t be alone in this bliss!  I’m on anti-biotics and I know that by tomorrow I’ll feel tonnes better but right now…it’s shite!

Saturday morning I was out with my Mum, sister and nieces (my Wonderful  Women!) doing a little Christmas shopping and having our annual Christmas lunch.  Spending time with my Wonderful Women is really important to me – they listen, they advise, tell me I’m nuts, I’m brilliant or I’m okay especially at those times when I’m not really sure what I am.  When I get overwhelmed, one of my not-so-positive traits would be to retreat inwards and pull back on communication – they know just how to kick me back in gear.  And I’m lucky enough to know they are there…always.

Anyway…I wasn’t feeling the Mae West so I treated myself to some nice Port…The really nice kind…so when I got home…got into my jammies…made a rather large (really large) Hot Port!! #Yummilicious 😍 That got me well on the road to recovery!  Here’s my very simple and delicious version:

½ glass of port (size of glass depends on how much hot port you want to drink! 😊)

Same measure of very hot water (as hot as you’d use for tea)

½ tablespoon honey (if you don’t like it too sweet, you can vary this but it is a great healer so I increase value by using Manuka)

1 thick slice of lemon

1 tablespoon of whole cloves

*

Boil the water.  Pierce lemon slice with whole cloves.

Once water is boiling, add to a warm mug and stir in honey.

Add the port and stir. Gently drop in the clove-studded lemon slice.  Let it diffuse and the flavours mingle for a few moments then enjoy!

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I haven’t yet had a hot whiskey I really enjoy…anyone got any good recipes???

For anyone in the same boat…sending you get well wishes!!

Remember, if you like my blog please follow me and share with your friends.

Thanks ❤❤❤

Circuit training…but not that sort

‘Every day’s a school day’ as the saying goes.  Yesterday was no exception.

My family and I live in an old cottage in Meath.  My husband and I bought it back in 2001 and it was an old thatched cottage then.  The thatch was an old straw thatch though and was in extreme disrepair, so much so that it was really patchy, liquefying and trailing down the walls of the cottage.  10255426_10152120847526705_5152469125997981040_n.jpgIt wasn’t liveable so it was a year of paying the mortgage before we could afford to do any work.  My builder Dad (lucky him!) got to manage the re-build of the cottage – a job he thanked me for at many times over the years…NOT!  And it took us many years combined with a number of ridiculous re-mortgages that, honestly, should never have been offered to us.  We started with a kitchen/dining/living room, toilet and a bedroom.  A couple of years later, two more rooms and some time after that, the last room.  This was not a ‘buy and move on’ transition house – this was an invest a large part of yourself house; a blood, sweat and tears home.  My Dad did lovely brickwork in the kitchen and bathroom – we have imprinted ourselves in this space.  And it’s now the home of our two boys who love it and love the space.

Yesterday, we were in the Circuit Court for our first appearance in relation to action being taken by the Bank who holds our mortgage to repossess our home.  How did we end up here?  A perfectly legitimate question.  Here’s a little of the back story –  my husband had back surgery in 2014 which was unsuccessful followed by further more extensive spinal surgery early this year.  Unfortunately, this too was not successful.  He has mobility in that he can walk and drive short distances however, he has been out of his job for the last 2 years.  On good days, he can dress himself and function with straight forward tasks independently.  On bad days, he can’t.  He simply can’t function.  So for the foreseeable future, he cannot work.  He is a qualified Horticulturalist working for a County Council.  You may think that he was lucky to be working for the Council in these circumstances but no, I have to say this is not the case.  They stopped paying him in April 2014 without notice and have barely made any contact with him despite his injury being an occupational one, hence our current situation.  I am a civil servant (not the senior, golden handshake level though!) and I have had numerous pay cuts that have seriously hindered our situation too.  There are more ins and outs and ups and downs to our tale but that’s the guts of it right there.  We simply could not and can not make ends meet.  Let me be clear here, I am not making excuses.   I am stating facts.    Let me also be clear, I have been determined not to be controlled by this situation.  However, I have felt suffocated by it, at times angry, at times so sad.  I lose a lot of sleep and indeed often cry myself to sleep with worry and distress.  But I feel it’s important to share that I have never felt ashamed.  These are things that we as a family cannot control, these are things that say nothing about the people we are, these are things that can be resolved through communication and determination.  We have responsibilities and we have communicated our circumstances with our mortgage company however our value is not determined by an institutions rules and regulations.  We are not defined by this experience.

We are not the only people in the country in these circumstances.  Yesterday, the court room was full of people in similar situations to us.  The room was full of men and women, furtively glancing around at each other – the odd one exchanging a small nervous almost smile, barely making eye contact before quickly looking down and away.  We are dealing with the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, who have been excellent in their advice through this very extended stressful time and they provide their services free of charge.  Our contact there advised us that as this is our first appearance, there will be an automatic adjournment to a later date.  We also got legal advice and we were advised the very same information.  I have to say, even though I trusted this advice from extremely reliable sources, I sat there in that court room with my heart in my mouth.  My palms were sweaty, I could feel my heartbeat in my scalp and my toes.  The Judge arrived in, we all stood and fidgeted for a moment watching each other for the signal to sit.  She was a very pleasant Judge I have to say, not that I’ve had much experience of Judges, but she took a moment before proceedings began to reassure everyone in the room that the proceedings were not something to be scared of.  That she would be doing all that she could to enable and facilitate each case to access any assistance that is available to them to reach a favourable conclusion to their case.  She said that the actual number of repossessions in Ireland is extremely few and while they do get media coverage, the number is very low.  She explained that outside the courtroom, there were representatives from MABS – Money Advice & Budgeting Service and the Insolvency Service of Ireland should anyone need to access their services.  The few moments that this Judge took to reassure the anxiety that was clearly present in the room made all the difference to people.  There seemed to be a collective palpable, albeit silent, sigh of relief.  And so began proceedings, each case called by name – complicated cases held until the end, straight forward ones dealt with efficiently and swiftly.  We were case 43 and we were not last on the list.  We were adjourned for 6 months as a first time case.  A proposal has been submitted by the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation on our behalf to our Bank who are actively considering our position right now.  So we continue to wait at the mercy of the Bank.

So why am I sharing these personal, intimate details of this part of our lives? While I have started this blog with the whole purpose of sharing, my personal financial breakdown won’t be playing a frontline role on a regular basis!  I’m sharing because I want others to know about the process and to not be afraid of it…well, not as afraid as I was.  I’m sharing because I am reading so much about what measures the banks are taking to ‘tackle the arrears problem’, to ‘reduce their liabilities’, to ‘claw back as much of the losses incurred in the crash as possible’. I am reading about the measures agreed with the Banks to deal with those in arrears in the correct way so that there is some sort of fairness in the procedures. I am reading about the cases (few as they may be) where people are being forcibly removed from their homes. I keep thinking one question – what are the people in positions of power doing in this country to help people like me?? I mean really help – not just produce guidelines that, in my opinion, are governed by the banks on how we are to be dealt with, or build a specific service to deal with this problem that dictates where you can do your grocery shopping and whether you are spending too much on food?! They allow the banks and creditors such veto powers that they can dictate arrangements and allow the Personal Insolvency Practitioners charge substantial fees that are added to the settlement of debt? This does not help people already crippled by debt, distress and fear who, for the most part, had no control ending up in their situation. Believe me, no sane person would willingly put themselves in this position. This Government has a lot to answer for in many areas – people struggling to keep their homes, people losing their homes, people living on the streets – where are the real priorities? We hope to be lucky enough to reach an agreement but there are no guarantees. We can only continue to wait.

This much I will guarantee however, I will be chained to the gates of my home before I give it up. I’ve sacrificed too much already for it…and I won’t give up without one hell of a fight!

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Happy?? Christmas..

It’s that time of year…tinsel and tassels, baubles and balls, angels and well… lots of flashing lights!  I’m a bit of a traditionalist (one of the rare occasions in my life) when it comes to the colours on the tree – green, red with a little splash or gold or silver here and there.  There are a few (ahem!) Santa’s in varying levels of rotundness placed strategically around my kitchen…and hall…and living room!  I do have one stipulation however, there can be no Snowmen (or women) with carrot noses within 100 yards of me or my home!  I mean it…I’m completely serious!  Snowmen (or women) should only have “…a big top hat and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal…” as the lovely tune Frosty the Snowman goes.  Carrot’s are not noses…and when they are used as noses, they just look evil!  Hey… we all have quirks – that’s one of mine!

Isn’t it interesting though, how this sparkly, shiny, gift wrapped ‘season of joy’ brings out different sides to people?  Some people LOVE it, embrace it and immerse themselves in everything Christmas once December arrives.  Others are indifferent to whether it’s on the way, whether it comes or goes.  Then there are people who appear to hate this positivity laden, family-soaked, food and booze engorged period like a visit to the Dentist for root canal!  We all have varied experiences of the holiday season and indeed some of us don’t celebrate at all – whether by choice or religious orientation for example.  I consider myself very lucky to have had a childhood with mainly positive Christmas memories.  There were 6 kids to keep happy and fed so that was no easy thing for my parents and it’s beyond me how they did it.  My Dad told me about one Christmas during a really difficult time in the building trade (He was a builder having followed his own father to England to work in his early teens).  The weather was really awful and he was putting a roof on a house.  He had to get the job done to get paid, £10 an hour which was a fraction of his worth but it was work and he needed to earn.  The roof was so slippy that his boots wouldn’t grip and he kept sliding down the tiles as he worked on them so he took off his shoes and socks and worked in his bare feet to get the job done.  That was a tough, lean Christmas as he remembers it.  We, as kids, never knew.  We never knew the stress, the pressure, the demands that it placed on Mam and Dad.  So in that sense, they did a fantastic job.  Mind you, we didn’t write lists or letters for Santa in our house.  It really was a big surprise when you arrived down to the sitting room on Christmas morning to find what was waiting for you.  And we were never disappointed.

This is a wonderful time of year in many ways… but it’s also a really hard time for so many people.  Now more than ever, there is so much pressure on us as – the adults (and no…unfortunately there are no adultier adults to deal with this shit), the parents – to produce the goods!  I have to remind myself, over and over again, that it’s also my job to manage the expectations too!!  At the moment, it’s a tough time in this household – I’m the sole earner as my husband has been off work due to serious back surgeries that haven’t been successful.  This has impacted our lives as a family in many ways and at this time of year, the financial effect is clearer than ever.  What I do, though, when I start to worry about not fulfilling my boys expectations is think back to my childhood.  I barely remember a few of the gifts I received but more so I remember the feelings.  Feelings of warmth, happiness, love, fun, laughter – that’s why I still go home to my parent’s every Christmas Day for Christmas dinner because as long as I have them – I want my parent’s to feel those feelings now.  #CircleofLife  Those are the memories that I am making sure my children have – nothing lasts as long or feels as good as being happy in yourself.  So my point is…try not to stress and focus on the people instead xxx

Okay, it was never part of my blog concept that I would be talking so much about family so coming up soon… feminism, patriarchy and dealing with over-intimate bosses/workmates!  #ThisismyWorkspaceThatisyourWorkspace

Chat soon 🙂

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