Monthly Archives: August 2017

Blackberry and Apple Crumble

With summer holidays comes more boys, with boys come more appetites. And what to do when their friends call over? Feed them.  Ah, but I love it. Boys are great fun when you know how to channel their energy; they spend the summer outdoors playing football, soldiers, swinging, fighting, jumping on hay bales and thus running up a ferocious appetite. So the challenge is to feed them and entertain them or do both at the same time.

One day this week, I put six boys out the door and up the field in search of blackberries.

‘Take your time.’ I said. ‘Make sure and get good ones’ I said knowing full well that blackberries had only started ripening on the ditches this past week and they might be a while. A good cuppa of coffee worth of time. Give a group of boys a mission and it becomes competitive. They’ll do their best they say and walk up the field armed with a little bowl each with the eldest carrying the metal pot to put the full collection into. They look determined, hungry, rearing for blackberries. With the little pot they’ll be able to score their ability to collect as many while the metal pot allows them to hear the plop plop plop as each blackberry hits the bottom of the saucepan.

After some fifteen minutes my army of blackberry pickers arrive back into the back kitchen to me with a miserable collection of berries; their faces smeared with a familiar purple syrup.

‘And did you leave any for the crumble?’ I ask them. A few little shrugs.

‘I have the pastry ready!’ (that familiar Cork lilt raising at the end of the statement to assure my sons that their mother means business thus prompting them to lead their friends back up the field). Cruelty!

Going out the door, rallying his troops, my eldest assures the rest that his mom does make a very good crumble. ‘It will be worth it.’ he says dividing up the blackberry army again, urging them to keep the loot for the tin and not the tummies this time.

I return to the kitchen and in the time it takes to rub butter to flour, sugar, oats and a pinch of mixed spice, my boys are back to me with a more substantial offering.

‘It will do’, I tell them smiling, washing the blackberries and pouring them in over the pastry.

‘Off with ye, I’ll call when it’s ready.’

I hardly need to call them as they pace the back garden with the smell of the baking pastry and blackberries calling them.

‘Is it ready yet mom?’

“No, I said I’d call ye.’

There’s hardly time for the poor crumble to cool when there is a row of hungry boys before me salivating.

I ask Philip to call the men off the farm for the tea, I set a table for nine (!) and we sit down together and eat our blackberry and apple crumble with icecream and tea. There is little talk. There is oohing and ahhing while all these men and boys contemplate the just melting blackberries over buttery pastry, topped with crumble and vanilla ice-cream. There is hot tea. We’ve all worked hard today and the ditches did us proud providing us with a feast fit for a king or a table of hungry men, boys and yours truly.

A memorable blackberry and apple crumble; the stuff of summer holidays.

Your life jacket

I love how Irish women, and men too of course, of a certain age wave goodbye with a ‘mind yourself.’ How lovely that after chatting to a friend on the street that you haven’t seen in ages to remind them, almost subconsciously, to mind themselves on parting. Wherever you go friend, make sure that you’re looking after yourself, till we meet again, adieu, take care, mind yourself. And how important it is to do, to mind ourselves that is.

I discovered this code among mothers at a young age standing by my mothers skirt-tails. It would take an age to get home from school as we’d always be stopped chatting at some point with our mammy and a neighbour. They’d chat, sometimes whisper, gossip, complain, tear up over the everyday wear and tear of life and on leaving one or the other would utter the reminder to ‘mind yourself.’ Yes, dear friend, in the daily furore of minding children, running about, cleaning, caring, hanging washing, loving, working, cooking; mind yourself.

I consider myself a bit of authority on the subject of minding myself considering that

  1. I’m the mother of three young sons (sorry boys)
  2. I frequently find myself running on empty pleading for five minute’s peace.

It’s that feeling when you have fed the children, washed them, dressed them or pushed them to dress themselves, switched off the tv, changed a second nappy, pushed them out the door, heard them say they’re hungry again all before you’ve had your own breakfast, shower or moment to yourself. But I just fed you? But I haven’t even eaten myself. Ah, now you’re being a martyr. And before you knowing it you’re shouting or bursting for a break or stoically getting on with it. What to do?

So, to the best piece of advice I have ever received as a mother;

Put on your own life jacket first. Yes, the air-hostess standing in front of you imaginarily pulling on an inflatable life jacket said it first. In the case of an accident, in the scramble to survive, put your own life jacket first. But of course. It makes sense doesn’t it? You can’t save them until you’re safe yourself. You’ve got to mind yourself first. Even in the less dramatic everyday situations when you’re not considering getting safely from an airplane, we’ve got to consider putting our own selves, sanity, safety first in other to mind the chizlers. Easier said than done says you.

And God be with the days when taking a break meant going out with the girls or a day at the spa. Since having the children, the bar has lowered somewhat significantly. And come on, you know me now, I still have the lovely days out but breaks are often less scheduled while the need for a break has increased significantly. So I’ve had to make my own list of emergency breaks that means that I escape albeit momentariy from the craziness of motherhood and domesticity. Needs must. So in no particular order, my break in case of emergency box includes;

  • A cup of herbal tea (when I’ve had my limit of coffee)
  • A run (if it’s a half an hour I’ve got)
  • Chocolate (for serious breaks; alas they’re frequent)
  • A phonecall to a friend (sounds like my one phonecall from a cell)
  • A chapter of a book (I’ve always read, since having children, I’m a real polymath)
  • A walk through a field (there’s no shortage of those)
  • Apply handcream (there’s always a tube somewhere)
  • Toilette, (yes, when I’m destressing, I cleanse, tone and moisturise, quietly in my room, closing my door to that madness beyond)
  • That lovely glass of really nice wine after their bedtime, need I say more?
  • Meditation, I have an app for that!
  • Laughter, seek out some laughs, radio, audiobook, call to my mother
  • Write, this blog was born out of my need to mind myself when I was heavily pregnant while busy with two other little boys on a busy dairy farm.

There are a lot more beside but these are my go-to breaks when I’ve had it, I’ve folded one t-shirt too many, stopped too many little boy arguments, buttered too many bread and jam sandwiches without a pause of my very own. Nobody schedules those breaks, alas, so we have to make sure and take those breaks for ourselves.

In other words, my friend, mind yourself.








Sometimes blog pieces just write themselves. We’ve had a busy few days and so this evening I find myself sitting down to keyboard after an evenings weeding. I was cleaning out the lavendar which is per chance one of the only flowers (shrubs?) that I have managed to grow or indeed overgrow in my garden. It is so satisfying to pull the overgrowing grass out of the lavender patch as the bees have buzzed off for the evening and I have to wriggle under the plant to get to the grass and the smell oh the smell of the purple lavender. And pulling the grass, however careful, I pull some long strands of purple flower with it and so separate them and place them aside to continue weeding.

Job done, I sit on the toddler’s soft surf board (perfect for gardening, saving the knees) and pull the leftover strands of lavender into a bouquet, I snip the ends tying them with chord when my collie Pepe comes to sit with me. His loving head on my legs  for a while until his giddier comrade, Sam, our other collie, comes looking for equal attention. And then, and this is possibly the bloggiest I’ve ever gotten, three of our kittens; Lily, Hermione and Harry (for that’s what the children have decided their names are today) peer from under the lavender bush and come to join in.  To think I spend the whole day shooing, shouting and brushing them out of my kitchen. What is more, I know I am but a dog’s snarl and a mother cat’s hiss away from the bubble bursting but I’ll keep going.

The lavender makes it to the vase, the red wine to the glass, and the farmer to the seat alongside me when a sneaking eight year old peers around the kitchen door grabbing a blanket and a chair to sit at the door of the farmhouse while his younger brothers sleep. It may be August but it’s not warm, it’s cold but it the summer cold that sits on your skin unlike the October Irish cold that gets right under.

It’s all very very good, the stuff of perfect summer evenings.