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Posts tagged ‘Waterford’

The Best Places I’ve Ever Been

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

I’ve been off work sick for about a week. It’s torture. I love being busy – I’m usually overflowing with tasks, whether its mothering my daughter, cooking, keeping the fires going (we usually have two: one in the wood stove in the kitchen and one in the sitting room fireplace), or, of course, working my actual day job at Holycross Stores and The Tipperary Kitchen. I’ve also taken up writing a weekly food column for The Tipperary Star, where I focus on a different local producer each week and create a recipe from their product. I love my life here in Ireland. I loooove being busy.

Badaling, Great Wall of China

Badaling, Great Wall of China

This past week has been a shock to my system. Relying on my husband to keep the house clean and our daughter cared for and my father-in-law to keep the fire going was, at first, torturous. But the last few days have finally seen me getting used to it. I’ve been able to take the time to reconnect with friends in Canada and in other parts of the world. I’m reading more. I’m listening to the radio and my favourite albums. It’s been a nice trip down memory lane. That leads me here, to this post. I’ve been looking back on old photos and reliving some amazing past adventures. I thought I’d share some of the best places I’ve ever been with you and tell you why they were so life-changing. Aren’t we lucky to live in an age where we were easily able to record our younger lives and experiences? OK, here are my Top 5! I would love to hear/see about yours, too.

Patrick & I at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon, South Korea

Patrick & I at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon, South Korea

1. South Korea  I spent 2007-10 living and working in South Korea. It was the biggest, craziest thing I’ve ever done. I was fresh out of university, mad to travel, had absolutely no money and no cares. I found a job, they paid for my flight, found me an apartment, paid the rent and then proceeded to pay me about $2000.00 CAN a month. I almost missed my first flight and Air Canada let me on the plane, but refused to check my luggage, so I literally MOVED TO ASIA with only my carry-on and my handbag. And a camera.

Halloween 2008 - Trick or Drink! Visiting convenience stores around our neighbourhood

Halloween 2008 – Trick or Drink! Visiting convenience stores around our neighbourhood. I’m the panda.

I played with five year olds during the day and partied with the other expats at night. The expats came from all over the English-speaking world. We all hung out at the same bar and there were other Canadian teachers at my school, so even though I went to Korea knowing no one, I came out of it with lifelong friends and a life partner (that’s right, I met Patrick at the foreigner bar in 2008).

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Lifelong friends.

I learned enough Korean to get by and made wonderful Korean friends, too. I miss them all the time. I need to get back there, to someday show my kids where their parents met. To a young, travel-crazy individual, I can’t recommend teaching abroad enough. I have friends teaching in Turkey right now and it looks like they’re having a great time, too, so there are plenty of options out there.

Kimchi Pots

Kimchi Pots

Things I love about Korea: THE FOOD, the lifestyle of a carefree foreigner, the amazing group of international friends (will we all ever be in the same place again? Probably not.), the low cost of living, the Korean people (including their priceless reactions to my curly hair and how protective my Korean friends were of me).

Songsan Ilchulbong in Jeju, South Korea

Songsan Ilchulbong in Jeju, South Korea

If you go you must experience: Mudfest, Jeju-do (a semi-tropical island off the South coast), jjimjilbang (Korean saunas), kimchi-making, island-hopping off Incheon, travelling along the beautiful East Coast, hiking Suraksan, eating strange, raw sea creatures (when you’re by the sea).

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Gunung Bromo after a pre-dawn hike (and slight meltdown)

2. Indonesia Patrick and I spent a month backpacking around the Western part of Indonesia in 2009. We started in The Gili Islands, then worked our way across Bali, Java and Sumatra. It was one of the best, worst and all-around craziest experiences of my life.

Borobrodur, Java

Borobrodur, Java

Patrick got a cheap (but safe) scuba diving PADI cert in The Gilis and, as a result, saw some amazing undersea creatures. I lounged on the beach and chatted with the local ladies. We ate barracuda, satay, curries, nasi goreng and copious amounts of sambal. We drank litres of Bintang beer. We lived very well for about 20 bucks a day.

Browsing the market in Ubud, Bali

Browsing the market in Ubud, Bali

In Bali we shopped for (and shipped) art. We saw dance performances and ate the ubiquitous babi gulung (roast pig stuffed with spices). We took the bus to Java and were dropped off in a random place in the middle of the night. We got a drunk taxi driver who drove five metres and then got out of the car and left us. We got another taxi and, at dawn, climbed an active volcano. We spent several blissfull days in Yogyakarta and saw ancient temples. A guy asked me to name his newborn baby.

Hanging out with the locals in Yogyakarta, Java.

Hanging out with the locals in Yogyakarta, Java.

We got spooked in Jakarta, boarded a massive ship and sailed for three days to Sumatra. We were segregated by sex (a Muslim country) and the women in my cabin thought I might be related to Britney Spears. They fed me fruit and looked inside my makeup bag.

My roomies on the ship to Sumatra.

My roomies on the ship to Sumatra.

We drove to the jungle and hung out with orangutans. One of the best experiences of my life. I popped xanax on a daily basis because I have an unhealthy obsession with natural disasters and tropical diseases. Indonesia in a nutshell.

This experience is up there with getting married and having a baby!

This experience is up there with getting married and having a baby!

If you go you must experience: Bukit Lawang (home of the orangutans), Yogyakarta, Borodrodur, Gunung Bromo (the volcano), travelling on an “ekonomi” train, eating Padang, swimming with sea turtles and giant clams, riding on the back of a motorbike “taksi”.

Pastel de nata in Belem, Lisbon

Pastel de nata in Belem, Lisbon

3. Portugal We’re coming up on a whole year since our first-ever family trip. Last year, Maeve was seven months old and couldn’t yet crawl or walk. It was the perfect time to take her on vacation as she was perfectly content to be strolled around – she would NOT be OK with that now!

Costa Nova, Aviero, Portugal

Costa Nova, Aviero, Portugal

I had been wanting to visit Portugal my whole life. Growing up in Cape Breton, I wasn’t exactly surrounded by multiculturalism. That said, my best childhood friend (and still a wonderful friend) is half Portuguese. I spent so much time in her home, with her Portuguese Dad and all of the photos, stories and culture she was exposed to. When she travelled to Portugal for visits, I always wanted to go, too.

Costa Nova

Costa Nova

So when I finally got to go last year I felt like a kid again. I got to spend time with my friend’s dad and he opened up his Lisbon home to us. We took the train to Porto and fell in love with everything about that city – the medieval, winding alleyways, the River Douro and the most delicious cheeses, wines and cured meats. Maeve was a prime attraction for locals, with her blond hair and bright blue eyes. We were cooed at and smiled to wherever we went.

Porto

Porto

We went to the coastal university town of Aviero. We spent time in Costa Nova at the beach, eating fresh seafood and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. For a first family vacation, it was perfect in every way.

Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Theive's Market, Lisbon

Thieve’s Market, Lisbon

If you go you must experience: Piri Piri Chicken with Creamed Spinach at Bonjardim (Lisbon), Fiera de Ladra (the “Thieves” Market) in Lisbon, Taste Porto Food Tours, Costa Nova in Aviero, pastel de nata and espresso EVERY MORNING, drinking Sagres in the main square in Porto.

No pollution control at the Tsingtao brewery

No pollution control at the Tsingtao brewery

4. China When I told my Korean friends I was going to China for my Christmas break they begged me not to go alone. “Someone will take you! They will sell you as a bride!”

Wangfujing Night Market, Beijing

Wangfujing Night Market, Beijing

Sometimes Koreans can be a little anti-China. That said, there were times, travelling alone, that I got into certain situations and remembered their words. I played on the safe side. Just so you know, though, sometimes proper taxis in China are just unmarked vans. This was my first solo-vacation (and my last, incidentally) since meeting Patrick. He went home to Ireland for Christmas and so I wanted to go somewhere, too.

Noodles in Tsingtao

Noodles in Tsingtao

Here’s the thing, though: I hate airplanes. So. Much. I will go really, really far out of my way to avoid flying. So that’s why I took a ferry to China. It took 18 hours. I was in a cabin with three women who were studying in Korea. The ferry docked in the city of Tsingtao (yup, where they make the beer). I spent a day or two there. The Germans occupied Tsingtao during the World War, which is why the beer is so lovely. I think Tsingtao would be much nicer in the summer, but I still had fun drinking beer and slurping noodles.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

I took an overnight train to Beijing. The crowd at the train station was scary and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my car. Just as the train was announced a young woman appeared out of nowhere. She grabbed my elbows, stuck them out, and helped me push my way through the crowd. She found my car, showed me where to go and was gone before I could practice my Mandarin and say thank you.

Wangfujing, Beijing

Wangfujing, Beijing

I had no seat. A woman was sitting with her three children in four seats. She took her youngest on her lap and gave me one of their seats. The children shared their snack with me (chicken feet from a convenience store), then we all fell asleep. Every time I woke up, a different child was sprawled across my lap. Beijing is one massive contrast. Communist and strict; mystical and spiritual. Amazing sights, smells and markets. Elderly folk having dance parties in sub-zero temperatures. The Great Wall is way more impressive than Karl Pilkington said. It (and the wind) took my breath away. The Ming Tombs were cool, too.

If you go you must experience: Travel by train, Beer Street in Tsingtao, The Temple of Heaven, The Silk Market, The Summer Palace, Peking Duck on Ghost Street, Wangfujing Night Market (where you’ll find all those lovely scorpion kebabs), The Great Wall, Hot Pot, Hutongs, Beijing Park Life.

Lakes of Killarney

Lakes of Killarney

5. Ireland Can you blame me for including my adopted home in this post? Ireland has changed me. I wasn’t a mom before I moved to Ireland. I was living in Canada’s biggest city prior to moving here – concrete on concrete, business attire every day, brunching on weekends and trying to stay on top of trends. All of that changed when I moved to Ireland.

Carvery Lunch in Dublin

Carvery Lunch in Dublin

I’m happy here. I’m settled. I love the fresh, local ingredients I have available to me. I love that Dublin, Waterford and Cork are less than two hours away. Limerick is less than an hour. I love being back on a farm. I love being surrounded by a large, extended family. Ireland is home.

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

If you go you must experience: The Antrim Coast, The Copper Coast, nights out in Galway, the Lakes of Killarney, wandering around Cork, Ballymaloe Litfest, quiet pubs in Tipperary, visit a farm, eat lots of butter and cheese, drink tea, hike around Glendalough, go to the Avoca in Wicklow for tea and shopping.

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Lately…

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Hi All!

I’ve got a lot to say before I head to Canada on Thursday. Here’s a bit of a (random) round-up of what’s been going on in my world these past few weeks:

Silage Cookin’:

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‘Tis the season! The farm is buzzing with activity as we race against the weather to get all the silage cut and gathered. Of course, this means we depend on our neighbours, friends and family for help. Having plenty of good eats on hand is a must to show our appreciation of everyone’s hard work.

I spent the majority of last week baking and cooking; keeping the kitchen stocked for when the workers could pop in for a cup of tea. Working in the hot weather is just the worst, but it’s the best time to do silage, unfortunately!

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Wexford Food Festival: 

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A few Sundays ago Pat, Maeve and I headed to Wexford town to check out their yearly food festival. I had never been to Wexford so I was excited to see the town and check out the Artisan Food Market (which featured lots of local artisan products as well as a selection from Wales). I loved the curry samples on offer and Pat enjoyed a pulled pork bap.

I wandered around Greenacres before lunch. What a great shop! They have an amazing selection of European wines, local cheeses and fine foods. They also stock an excellent array of kitchen supplies. I’ll be back to stock my kitchen as we renovate the farm house in Tipp.

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For lunch, we went to a lovely Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita. The owner is really outgoing and makes a great bowl of pasta (and the bread… the bread!). I ordered a bowl of bucatini amatriciana and it was perfect. Al dente noodles, fresh tomato sauce with just the right amount of heat from the chilies.

Ballymaloe Litfest:

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The weekend before Wexford, my friend Grace (who works as a television food stylist and was visiting from Toronto), Maeve and I went to Ballymaloe Litfest. It was even better than last year, if that’s possible.

The farmer’s market in The Big Shed had a great variety of food producers (including some of my favourites – Highbank Orchards, Ballyhoura Mushrooms and Rocket Man to name a few), there was a cookbook shop set up in another of the sheds and the usual workshops and discussion groups were well put-together.

Rene Redzepi, Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi were just a few of the fantastic chefs involved in this annual festival. I met Yotam and we bonded over our napping children – neither of whom slept well the night before. He’s a lovely man.

Larder:

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This is a new shop on The Quay in Waterford specializing in local artisanal products. They also serve coffee and offer daily, fresh baked goods. The spelt brown bread is addictive and the owner, Patrick, is the kind of inspirational businessman you want to support and see succeed. I’d love to see more of these vacant shops on The Quay revitalized the way Patrick’s done to Larder – it’s trendy and well stocked, with seating out on the sidewalk to sit and enjoy your cuppa on nice days.

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Cupcake Heaven:

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Another great Waterford business. I was in Kaffeine (on the pedestrian shopping street) to get a latte before catching the bus and the girl behind the counter gave me one of their cupcakes to try. The cupcakes are made by a group called Cupcake Heaven and they are, hands down, the best in Waterford. They always have samples in the coffee shop so go in for a taste! My favourites are the coffee and chocolate.

Top 50 Restaurants in Canada:

Auberge du Pommier, Toronto

Auberge du Pommier, Toronto

On May 22nd, the 3rd annual Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list was launched by Vacay.ca. I chaired the Top 50 again for the second year and had such a great experience. We had fabulous judges, including some of Canada’s most iconic chefs, and everyone seemed happy to be involved.

As with any restaurant list, it’s hard to really “rate” a restaurant – I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a personal opinion. But I really believe this list is a great resource for anyone planning a foodie visit to almost any part of Canada and I’m proud it’s so democratically driven.

Botched Attempt at Father’s Day?

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So, since Mother’s Day is on two different days in Canada and in Ireland I figured it must be the same for Father’s Day. I must not have been reading the signs, but in Tipperary there were all kinds of “last minute” things on sale for Father’s Day. I assumed that must mean Father’s Day was last (last) Sunday. I got Pat a little present and a card from Maeve and made him his favourite breakfast, only to find out Father’s Day actually took place this past weekend. *facepalm* I’m blaming baby brain.

He still got a sleep in, a nice breakfast and a family hike out to the Devil’s Bit near Templemore (will post about that soon).

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Happy Father’s Day anyway, Pat. I’ll get it right next year. (Also: Maeve’s first taste of nutella!).

Crazy Full Moon at the Farm:

I took this shot the other night after a long day of hauling/cutting the silage:

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Cool, huh? Apparently we won’t see a moon like that again in our lifetime (at least, not on a Friday the 13th).

Ombre Obsession:

Last but not least, here’s my first attempt as an ombre cake:

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I’ll leave you with that.

Until next time! xx

Mahon Falls, The Comeragh Mountains in County Waterford

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A few weeks ago on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Patrick, Maeve and I set off down the N25 for a leisurely drive through the Comeragh Mountains.

Like many places in County Waterford, before moving here I wasn’t aware that these mountains existed. Now that I know, I’m saddened thinking about how many other Canadians come to Ireland and never make it to the Sunny Southeast.

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Although it seems to be a stop on many bus tours, Waterford doesn’t feature in as many travel articles or commercials. I’m not sure why that is – the weather is lovely, the beaches are gorgeous and relatively secluded, and the Comeraghs – well, the Comeraghs have some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever experienced.

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In the far reaches of the mountains, there is a short hike to a place called Mahon Falls. This walk is highly recommended. Small children and seniors will have no problem walking to the falls and back – it took about 20 minutes of brisk walking for me to reach the end. The backdrop of mountains on one side and rest of County Waterford on the other is breathtaking, to say the least.

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When we arrived, we looked back at Maeve and discovered she was sound asleep. Patrick and I looked at each other, each trying to think of a way around the situation. In the end, I walked to the falls by myself and Patrick said he and the baby would follow if and when she woke (she didn’t; she was still snoring when I got back about an hour later).

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The path is well marked and maintained and when you reach the falls there are numerous spots for picnics. Just beware of the wind – it can be really harsh and cold, even on a sunny day. Higher up on the hills, if you squint, you can see sheep grazing on the stumpy grass and heather. It’s amazing to see how high they can climb.

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Mahon Falls is about 40 minutes from Waterford City. You’ll see a sign for the waterfall about ten minutes before reaching Dungarvan on the N25 roadway. The hike will take at least another 40 minutes depending on how long you stay to admire the view.

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What’s On My Mind:

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  • Over the April long weekend we took a gorgeous drive along the Copper Coast from Tramore to Dungavan. I’ve been hearing about The Moorings‘ outdoor patio for some time now. As every Canadian knows, there’s nothing better than beers on a patio on a beautiful, sunny day. This patio didn’t disappoint (and neither did the food or beer).
Scrummy fish chowder & zingy chicken wings at The Moorings

Scrummy fish chowder & zingy chicken wings at The Moorings

  • Breathedreamgo is one of my favourite travel websites. It specializes in travel – mostly to India but also to other areas – and focuses on solo women travelers. Even though I’m married with a bebe I still like to travel alone and I enjoy following the author, Mariellen, on Twitter to see what she’s up to. There’s an amazing giveaway on her website right now: a 14 day food adventure to India, in partnership with Intrepid Travel. You can enter here.
  • I know Maeve’s only 8.5 months old, but I think she may have a promising future in hip hop. She poo-poo’s Raffi but goes crazy for Wu Tang. I’m both proud and slightly scandalized.

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  • The World’s 50 Best Restaurants was announced last night and I wasn’t surprised to see there are still no Canadian restaurants making the cut. As chair of Vacay.ca’s Top 50 Restaurants in Canada I know there’s some pretty amazing stuff happening in Canadian restaurants, from old-school Newfoundland cuisine to fine dining with Aboriginal flair. Maybe more 50 Best judges should visit more often.
My favourite Huevoes at Mildred's Temple Kitchen, Toronto

My favourite Huevoes at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Toronto

  • I ate at La Bohème again last Friday. They have some great value prix fixe menus – an early bird for €29 and a Market Menu, which is four courses for €35. The Market Menu had more interesting selections so we went for that. We also indulged in a kir royale made with the chef’s own creme de cassis – amazing. So many fine dining restaurants fail to hit the mark for me – trying to be creative, they get lost along the way. Chef Théze sticks to his French roots and doesn’t mess around when it comes to flavour.
Waterford Lamb Rump with Almond Cream at La Boheme

Waterford Lamb Rump with Almond Cream at La Boheme

  • I have been loving the spring-time weather in Ireland! Warm, sunny and beautiful. It puts you in a great mood. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

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A Very Nutty Nougat

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Well folks, I can’t believe it, but it’s been a year since we moved into this little house in Waterford. A whole year. So much has happened, and yet it’s gone by in a flash. Our cat sadly died, our beautiful girl was born, we got a new puppy (who I threaten to get rid of on a daily basis – she won’t stop stealing food from the kitchen counter!), members of my family came to visit and went home again. I remember this summer seeming so far away back in September when I had to say good bye to my parents and brother.

But I shouldn’t have been so dramatic. The past six months have flown by. In a few weeks we’ll be welcoming one of my best friends to Ireland for a long-planned visit. In mid-June, the baby and I will be boarding a plane (Westjet now fly from Dublin to St. John’s!) and taking the four hour trip home to Canada. Yup, just four hours. It took my parents longer to fly to my brother on the other side of Canada. It’s a small world, really.

In between, there are first communions, a few fantastic food festivals, and lots to see and experience around the country. In Canada, we’ll be welcoming a new baby boy into the family. Good things are on the way.

A Beautiful Cape Breton Summer

A Beautiful Cape Breton Summer

This summer, I’ll be freelancing, blogging and cooking in Cape Breton for a good 2.5 months. I can’t wait to swim in the river, to pick wild blueberries, to taste the wines of the Annapolis Valley and visit the beautiful beaches we boast in Nova Scotia. I’m going to eat donairs, garlic fingers and poutine til I’m fit to burst. I’m going to really enjoy lobster season. But mostly, I can’t wait to see my family and introduce them to my baby, who have, mostly, only seen Maeve via Skype or Facebook.

I was in a celebratory mood yesterday. In one year we’ve come a very long way. This blog is almost a year old, too! I’ll be commemorating that in a different post. Yesterday, I wanted to make something indulgent.

French nougat is one of my favourite confections. It’s chewy, sweet and versatile. You can mix in whatever combination of dried fruits, nuts or sweets you want. My favourite way to have nougat, though, is with lots of toasted nuts to add a bit of earthiness and cut through the sweetness. Adding a handful of dried cranberries will add a bit of tartness which blends well with those toasty nuts. You can flavour it with citrus rinds, vanilla or spices. I chose cinnamon this time.

Any combination of nuts will do – yesterday I had some almonds, walnuts and cashews, so that’s what went into my nougat. Pistachios and hazelnuts are also good options (and the green pistachios look really pretty against the white). Kids might like their nougat with some caramel or chocolate chips added in, but for me that’s a bit of a sugar overload. At least the fruit and nuts give the illusion of it being a healthy snack!

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Nutty, Fruity Nougat

Ingredients:

1 egg white, room temperature

pinch of sea salt

pinch of ground cinnamon

1 1/3 cups white sugar

1/2 cup honey

2 Tbsp tap water

1/2 cup each walnuts, cashews, almonds & dried cranberries

Vegetable oil

Directions:

  • Toast and roughly chop the nuts. Set aside.
  • Grease and line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap. Then, cut two pieces of parchment and lightly grease those as well. Make sure there’s plenty of overhang when you line the cookie sheet with plastic wrap.
  • Add the sugar, water, cinnamon and honey into a saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar and then turn on high. Boil this mixture for 3-5 minutes. You can use a candy thermometer here but its really not necessary (if you do, it should register around 120 degrees Celsius when finished). You want the sugar and honey to reach the soft-ball stage of cooking – that means, if you drop a bit into a glass of cold water it turns into a firm, but soft ball.
  • While the sugar mixture is boiling, beat the egg white and sea salt until soft peaks form. Once the sugar mixture has reached the right consistency, gradually and slowly pour the mixture into the egg white while beating on med-high.
  • As the sugar mixture is absorbed into the egg white, you should notice the meringue becoming stiffer and glossier. This is what you want. When all of the sugar syrup has been poured into the meringue, continue to beat for 8-10 minutes until you’ve got a firm, but still pliable and mix-able meringue.
  • Now, you can add the nuts and dried fruit to the mix while it’s still pliable. Use your hands (the mixture might still be pretty warm, so be careful!) like I do or a strong wooden spoon. If using your hands, grease them with a bit of vegetable oil before working the nougat.
  • Once the fillings are mixed in, move the nougat to the lined cookie sheet. With one greased parchment sheet on the bottom, press the nougat into the corners and flatten it out with your hands. Put the other greased parchment sheet on top to smooth and even it out over the cookie sheet.
  • Allow to set for at least two hours before removing it from the cookie sheet. When you move it, use the overhang from the plastic wrap to lift it up.
  • Use a knife dipped in boiled water to portion the nougat. If you think it’s too sticky, you can coat the nougat in icing sugar. That will make it easier to handle. It will store in an airtight container for a week.

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We Wintervaled

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Last weekend my nieces came down from North Tipperary to join in Winterval festivities, which are happening all over Waterford City. As Maeve is much too small to really get what’s happening, having our 7 and 10 year-old girls over was a lot of fun and really got us into the Christmas spirit! I mentioned in my last post how wonderful Ireland is at this time of year. There may not be any snow on the ground, but the way the towns, villages and cities are decorated and the shops are set up leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy. I feel so blessed to have such a large family of in-laws here – it really takes away the sting of being away from Cape Breton and my parents/brothers/nieces/sisters-in-law/aunties/uncles and cousins (I have a pretty big family too!).

Aside from the monumental task of baking I always set for myself, I have been taking the time to enjoy our first Christmas in Ireland as a little family. Maeve may only be four months old, but she seems to sense something special is going on. She met Santa with her cousins (not a tear was shed!) and has put up with the ridiculous outfits I’ve been shoving her arms and legs into. For being such awesome parents, we are rewarded daily with beaming, gummy smiles, little baby chuckles (as she dreams of nice things) and ferocious playfulness (she cries hard and she plays hard).

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So last Sunday we bundled her into her sling and set of to explore what Winterval had to offer, nieces and sister-in-law in tow.

We started at Greyfriars’ Municipal Art Gallery and had a look at some of the paintings and photographs on display. There were some fluffy floor pillows strewn around and the girls had fun playing in them while we looked at the art. I loved the different paintings and photos of Waterford through the years – there is so much history in this small city and I’m constantly learning new things about my adopted home.

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We went to Reginald’s Tower next, hoping to catch some of the storytelling that was going on, but we were a bit too early. No problem; we were able to enjoy the tower free of admission that day. We climbed to the top, stopping on each floor to see the many artifacts on display and watched a film about the history of Waterford and the tower, which is well over a thousand years old.

After the tower, we stopped at The Reg, where the girls had a hot chocolate while watching a Christmas movie and we adults sipped hot, mulled wine and had a quiet chat. I think The Reg has the right idea – keeping the kids occupied for a little while so the adults can rest their feet and have a nice drink. I fed Maeve and then we were on our way to the horse drawn sleigh, which I had booked a few days prior.

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The sleigh was running a bit behind schedule due to traffic, so we went across the street to the museum and Bishop’s Palace. The Singing Christmas Tree was located behind the palace, so we listened to some lovely Gaelic songs and carols from the male singing group Cor Fear na nDeise. We made our way back to the horse drawn sleigh and this time they were ready for us. We had a fun, bumpy, entertaining ride through the city.

Finally, we made our way to the city center where the Christmas Carousel is set up. Patrick and I took the baby to No. 9 Café for a cup of tea while the girls had a ride on the carousel.

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We had a full, busy day but there is so much more to see, do and take advantage of. After Christmas, we’ll be making our way to the skating rink for an evening of ice skating.

The kids had so much fun, but maybe just as importantly, so did the adults. I’m so proud to reside in such a proactively festive city. Well done to all involved!

Oatmeal, Cinnamon & Dried Cranberry Cookies

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Things are coming together around here. My mother arrived from Canada early Wednesday morning and my house has been in ship-shape ever since. Hospital bags are long since packed, cupboards are getting organized and my house is feeling a lot more feng shui in general. I suddenly have someone to help me with things like laundry and dishes. This leaves me to focus on things like eating breakfast, blogging and sending “go into labour” vibes to my unborn child (seriously, any time now).

With a bank holiday weekend looming we have lots to look forward to indeed. Hopefully we get some sun this weekend; I’m really looking forward to the Spraoi Festival, which starts today and ends on Sunday evening with a night parade and fireworks. For any non-Irish readers, the Spraoi Festival is like a busker’s festival with street performances and workshops happening throughout the city. Great fun and a great first weekend for my mom, who has never been to Ireland (or even overseas!).

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I’ve been craving oatmeal cookies for awhile now. My grandma used to make plain oatmeal cookies all the time. They were sweet and wholesome and I loved them. Sadly, I never got her recipe (although I doubt she even used a recipe), but luckily I have a system when it comes to cookie dough (thank you, first year pastry class). My mom’s favourite kind of cookie is oatmeal raisin. I didn’t have any raisins on hand, but I did have some dried cranberries. Add a pinch of cinnamon to that and you have a soul-warming cookie, perfect for the torrential rain we’ve been having in Waterford over the past week.

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Oatmeal, Cinnamon & Dried Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup AP flour

1 1/2 cup rolled or breakfast oats

1 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • In your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light, fluffy and fully incorporated. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and egg and mix until well combined.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt and oats. Add dry ingredients all at once to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until well combined.
  • Gently stir in the dried cranberries. Drop by the tablespoon-full onto the cookie sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Allow to cool before indulging – they will be very delicate when first out of the oven.
  • *For a chewier cookie, replace the granulated sugar with an additional 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

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