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    Fermenting Magic

    Over a decade ago when I was pregnant with my first child, I discovered fermented foods in my neighborhood health food store. There’s no telling how much fermented salsa, kimchi, and sauerkraut I ate during that pregnancy! It was a far better choice then the pickled foods in grocery stores that are pasteurized and intentionally kill off the healthy micro-organisms that are present while also destroying vast amounts of valuable nutrients. But the health store prices made me hesitant to indulge as often as I’d like so I decided to learn to make it myself at home. Much like sewing, I’m convinced that fermenting is another skill one masters over years and years of practice, never to exhaust all the possibilities in one lifetime. Continue reading

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    It’s a Good Day to Have a Good Day

    If there’s something seemingly big keeping you from your joy, focus your attention on something small. There are little miracles everywhere in nature just waiting to distract us from our thoughts of ourselves and our worries. Every day may not be good but there is something good to be found in every day if only we decide to see it… Continue reading

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    Family Day at The Black Fort

    Less promoted than the islands main attraction Dun Aengus Fort, the Black Fort offers as much and more.  It’s less visited and one can easily wander off in any direction that catches their whimsy rather than having to stay on … Continue reading

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    From the Garden of My Mind

    Just as common sense doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden, neither are we all born with a green thumb when it comes to cultivating a vision for the future. To cultivate anything requires an attention to detail, knowledge of what is being nurtured, a bit of patience, and a smidgen of resilience (for when things don’t go as expected). .. Continue reading

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    Wreathed in Love & Wrapped with Care

    Wreaths are stand-alone decorations that are quite versatile.  They can be large or small, indoors or outside, ornate or modestly adorned, hung vertically or placed flat on a table top, and definitely not exclusive to holiday time. They need not even be … Continue reading

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    Autumn Wreath for the Birds

    This tutorial was picked up by HomeFarmer Magazine by way of twitter and printed in their online publication.

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    Pride of Place

    A wonderful place for children It is often said how fortunate an upbringing the children of the island have and I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment.  I grew up in a small community, but there is something about island living that makes … Continue reading

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    Sandy Toes and Salty Kisses

    It’s the first week of July and despite having mild temperatures and sporadic sunshine here on Inis Mor, many visitors are filling the roads and exploring the island on foot, bicycle, pony & trap, or in guided bus tours. Summer homes are … Continue reading

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    Garden To Table: How To Make Orzo Salad With Aran Island’s Goat Cheese & Ground Dillisk Seaweed

      Quick and easy, filling and nutritious.  Loved by both children and grown-ups.  Such a great recipe I couldn’t help but share it, after all, this recipe is asked for everywhere I bring it. It is made extra special with … Continue reading

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    How Well Do You Know Your Sewing Machine?–Beginner Sewing Worksheet 1

    As I prepare to post Beginner Sewing Project 3, I realize there is something else that I incorporate with my classes–info worksheets.  Understanding sewing machines, tools, and terminology is important to become an independent sewist.  This first worksheet explains the very … Continue reading

I’m responsible for what I say. I’m not responsible for what you hear.

If you haven’t heard yet, the ferry service to the island I live on, Inis Mor, ended yesterday. I was on the final voyage home after having ventured to the mainland that morning.

Just before boarding the ferry, I was approached by a newspaper photographer asking was I living on the island and, if so, could he take my photo. I said yes and he requested that I “look sad”. Huh, really? ‘Click’ went his camera. But I wasn’t exactly feeling sad.

“What does losing the ferry service mean to you?” he asked. “Where do I even begin?” was my reply. Now, I don’t know was he just hurried or if he didn’t understand how serious I was, but he then drew attention to the many full bags I was toting.

“Christmas shopping?”

“Some” is all I said. I really didn’t want to share what was in my bags and trolley. I had purchased new sneakers for my children and a special dress for one of my daughters who is soon having her first Christmas dinner at secondary/high school.  I also had some food for someone in my house with special dietary considerations and I had attended a dental appointment; all things I couldn’t do on the island. And yes, some Christmas gifts too.

Several times he looked away from me and up the gangway to the other people who were also making their way towards the ferry. He asked for my phone number and would it be alright for a reporter to call me. Then, while walking away, he looked back at me and said seriously, “Okay, it’s about Christmas.”

What?! He was nearly out of range when I said, “Have that reporter call me, okay?” He was gone and I boarded the ferry.

After sitting down, I had an awful feeling of being misunderstood, of having been put in a position to hurriedly answer an important question which I was unprepared for by someone who was only half listening.

Immediately, I pulled out a pen and on the back of a receipt I wrote what I would have said had the ferry not been leaving so soon, had I been able to think more clearly on the spot, and had he not been determined to photograph other ‘sad’ Island Ferries swan songers.

I would have told him this:

Our entire lifestyle is threatened by the loss of our ferry service. Employment, health care, education, family, entertainment, recreation, and numerous other needs are all accessed via the ferry. Having no ferry is equivalent to cutting off our legs; our mobility is severely limited and there’s no crutch that can accommodate the numbers of islanders and visitors who travel to and from day to day. The loss of the ferry will cripple the island, having a huge impact on its very existence. It’s serious and it needs to be sorted out once and for all and as soon as possible.

I also jotted down a few words that reveal how I feel more adequately than ‘sad’:

  1. vulnerable; why is it that our needs are so ill-considered?
  2. worried; when will the service resume?
  3. frustrated; why won’t the responsible politicians sort this out?
  4. mad; why must we carry the burden of their shortsightedness?

This post is by no means meant to be critical of the photographer or the ferry service. Even people who share the same experience will have different interpretations of it so there are as many different perspectives as there are people in the world. Of course, I take responsibility for not conveying my deep feelings when the window of opportunity, small as it was, presented itself. Verbal communication can be woefully inadequate to impart intentions, opening the door for misunderstanding.

Obviously, this post can’t cover every situation in human interactions, and it certainly isn’t meant to be taken as a serious analysis of human communication, it’s just some things that I wanted to share because a reporter hasn’t called.

If by chance my photo is printed in a newspaper captioned ‘Loss of ferry service is a great inconvenience to islander’s Christmas shopping’, please understand it has much greater implications than anything materialistic. There’s nothing funny about our situation and many families could end up spending Christmas apart if it isn’t sorted out soon.

Please light a candle, say a prayer, or whatever is your custom to show solidarity with others who are faced with righting a wrong done to them. We could use all the support available in our time of vulnerability.

Sincerely, Melissa

An Island of Infinite Quiddity

It’s crazy o’clock in the morning and I’m enjoying the peace and quiet that’s filling the house right now. I should be tired but I’m not. I’ll surely regret being up so late when it’s time to rise and shine in a few wee hours from now.

As much pleasure as my holiday to America brought me, many days I caught my mind wafting away to my life here in Ireland. I couldn’t help but to be tugged back to all that fills me up here. This is where the most vital parts of my life experience are and that’s why I haven’t gone back for seven years; it’s not that I didn’t want to go, I simply haven’t wanted to leave. Johnny would probably find this funny, in the interesting, not ha-ha, sort of way, as I went many days without contacting home at all. But, though high priority, it wasn’t him or the children or the animals or the gardens that I was longing for. It was the island, or rather the island’s infinite quiddity– that which fills me up, tempts my curiosities and allows freedom to indulge in my wildest hairs like I haven’t experienced since childhood. All this while at the same time feeling completely grounded and centred. Often times I tell folks that the island reminds me of my own childhood, back a generation, exploring nature, knowing most everyone most everywhere I go. I doubt that’s my perception exclusively. Many, many people speak of this seemingly magical allure that the island has. It’s not the life for everyone, thankfully, but it’s the life for me.

Other than unpacking and settling in, I’ve been working zealously in the craft room and the kitchen, but that’s all for another day’s writing. Apologies for not answering mail and messages…there’s only so much time that I can sit in front of the computer without getting fidgety and abandoning it.

I hope all have been well and, please God, you’re all in your happy place too!

With love, Melissa Xx

 

Ukrainian Pierogi Recipe–Looking East Before Heading West

I’m heading off to the States today but before leaving I wanted to share the Ukranian pierogi recipe I mentioned in my last post.

What makes the Ukrainian pierogi different from the Chinese dumpling, the Italian ravioli, or the Japanese gyoza? A question that certainly deserves deeper investigation, but in my meagre two-hour internet research, I found similarities and differences that amounted to much grey area, leading me to believe they have more in common than not.

Other names for the eastern European product include pirogi, pirohy, pyrohy, varenyky, derelye, and coltunasi. They’re all very similar–some of the doughs have oil rather than butter or neither at all, some have eggs while some don’t. Like the dumpling, ravioli, and gyoza–pierogi are flour based doughs prepared with a variety of fillings. And the country of origin? It’s unclear. Could be Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, or Russia, and they could each possibly lay claim to their own original version.

The recipe I’m sharing today is from a Ukranian friend. After he served them at a dinner party, I was determined to make them myself. No surprise, there was a massive difference between his and the store bought ones I had had back in the States from the grocery store freezer section. He agreed to teach me and kindly gave a one on one cooking class. Now they’re a family favourite. Continue reading

Pumpkins, Pierogies, Megalithic Tombs & The Tale of Diarmuid agus Gráinne

Happy Halloween! Our pumpkin patch has been bare for a couple weeks already and seaweed has already been laid atop the soil in preparation for next spring’s planting.

Just as our gardens continue to grow and enrich our lives, so too do the students who visit us three times a year to sow, plant out, and harvest their pumpkins. Continue reading

Celebrate the Seashore

Is it any wonder why so many of us flock to the seashore to exercise, socialize, relax, forage, and get creative? We are kindred spirits, sharing the allure of the seashore, feeling it’s magnetic pull, and knowing it’s something well worth honouring in celebration. It’s our happy place!

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A Recipe of Thanks-Veggie Burgers

A couple posts back I mentioned making a veggie burger that I was finally satisfied with, ‘No crumbling and falling apart, no mushy centre, and just the right balance between the creamy inside and the crunchy outside.’

I used black beans in that recipe and felt most beans would work well with it. This thought was put to the test after I attended a party at Urban Wellbeing, and gratefully won a hamper filled with an amazing array of nutritious and delicious food items from Evergreen Healthfoods via a raffle offered by the amazing Helen Finn of Combination Cooking. We were very excited with our basket of goodness and wanted to create something using the ingredients to express our appreciation. Continue reading

Between the Bustling and the Ambling

Around the equinox, both the daytime and nighttime are of the same length and, depending upon where you are, darkness starts to happen earlier and earlier and the temperature begins to drop.

One of the first things I like doing to mark the seasonal transition is to replace the wreath on the front of our house.  My autumn bird feeder wreath was created as an expression of my appreciation for the harvest, for our family and home life, for all the good things around us.  I like it to be natural and organic and to offer a bit of sustenance to the songbirds.  Since taking these photographs, I added in some seeded ivy, cabbage, and kale.  I plump it up twice in the season as bits begin to wilt, fade, and get eaten.

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The Mysterious Angle

 

What is the mysterious angle of the above photo?  I’ll give you a hint…the next photograph is of the same thing.

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And just because it’s cool, the following photograph is a view of our village taken from the same spot.

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The mysterious angle photograph was taken from atop the steep breakwater (2nd picture) with the camera on panoramic… sea to the left and lake to the right.  The mysterious angle photograph also works perfectly for this weeks photo word of the week, ‘mystery‘.

You must go and check out my friend Sandra’s ‘mystery‘ post.  Just incredible!!

Cheers, Melissa

“If you don’t build your own dream, someone will hire you to build theirs”

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Before shot #2

september-2016-before-shotThe above picture is an update on my Sept 22nd Instagram ‘before shot’ (left) that I thought some of you here might like to follow the progress of.  We’re determined to move leaps and bounds this autumn and winter towards our goal of making a business out of our gardens, therefore fulfilling our dream of working together full time and no longer working out of the home for other people. Continue reading

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