Monday, 30 December 2013

Breathing Space.

So we have slipped past the longest night,
the storms that blew for days have abated, and we find ourselves out tramping the sodden mulchy pathways that criss cross the significant hills of our days. We have gathered together our families, eaten our fill, making merry til the long dark hours are forgotten, pushed aside by the rush of words we swap and share and weave together, for there are months of catching up to be done with those dear to us.

And here we find ourselves again, in the quiet time between the years, the lying low, the resting, mustering ourselves for the New Year to come. 
I find myself reflecting on this past, most eventful year, and looking forward down the path ahead to the exciting one to come. 
For the second year in a row I find myself standing looking into a great big Unknown - and last year did not disappoint. We didn't even know where we would be living by Christmas, this time last year, and now we are here we are amazed, for it is as though we have always been here. 

This year I was ~ packing up ~ losing India ~ leaving the marsh ~ moving house ~ attending weddings  ~  in Cork ~ at Inis Beg Estate ~ meeting friends ~ in Sligo ~ discovering Bray ~ climbing that hill ~ flying to Virginia ~ delving into caves ~ flying home~ swimming in the sea : Sandycove, White Rock, Killiney, Bray, Greystones, Kilcoole, Silver Strand, Magheramore, Morriscastle Strand, Clogga Bay, Baginbun, Carnivan, Coral Beach Carraroe, Mullaghmore, Bundoran, ~ at Lough Key Forest Park ~ doing yoga ~ starting work ~ seeing our co-op shoot towards the sky ~ organising pop-ups ~ taking photos ~ making drawings ~ stitching ~ walking ~ cycling ~ reading ~ feeling very grateful and heart-full and excited about the coming year. 

I want to say thank you, to all you folks who have stuck by Milkmoon, despite this most sparse years of all. There is still more to be told here, and I am not done yet. So here's to 2014, and all that it brings.
So, Happy New Year to you all,
may 2014 bring you Enough.
Sending love to you wherever in the world you may be.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

What I've Been Up To Lately.

Sometimes Life amazes me.
Picks me up by my tail and whirls me around a bit, then deposits me somewhere unexpected and never-seen-before, and so, a bit ruffled, and maybe even somewhat bedraggled, I pick myself up and dust myself off, check for injuries, and then Proceed With Caution. It doesn't happen very often in life that there is a significant change, I mean, a really, really big one. Usually it's the slow meander along the winding little pathways, with occasional wanderings off into dead ends and loop-the-loops which bring you right back to where you started. And there are lovely woodlands along the way, with leafy green and yellow light dancing up there above you, and sometimes there are banks of the sweetest flowers nodding their heads in the balmy breeze, and sometimes there are puddles of muddy water you have to wade through in your favourite shoes, or stones that trip you up or find their way into your shoe and hurt your feet. But sometimes it turns out that the little beaten track you are on suddenly opens up into Wonder, a great grassy plain with a smooth road and the sea sparkling in the distance, and suddenly everything feels Right, and Good, and you find yourself skipping along, kicking up your heels and skirts, and warmth blooms in your heart.

Sometimes Life amazes me.
And I find myself doing something I could never have dreamt of, only a few months ago. And the phrase, In My Element, suddenly has meaning. 
A few months before we moved to this town we began meeting weekly with a bunch of rather splendid folks who had a rather splendid idea about what this town needs, and so, we have spent almost a year now, talking talking talking about just what that might be, and slowly something began to take shape, and then it began to grow, and to our collective amazement we are now in the midst of Something Splendid that is now fluttering out there, above our heads, stretching it's gossamer wings and testing the air. 
We have no idea where it will take us, or what it will bring, but it is exciting and inspiring, and speaking in a voice that, it turns out, many people can, and want to, hear.

We are part of a growing community co-operative that is still finding that voice, but that is strong and clear and determined. We started out as a wholefood buying club, and then we put on an event, a vegetarian feast with music and dancing and singing, and we started to tell people about what we were doing, and all around us these little lights began to go on, in people's eyes and hearts, as they listened to what we were saying, and they began to add their voices too, and now we find ourselves here, with a gathering crowd of good intentioned, hopeful folks who know that this is the way forward. Sharing our resources, our skills, our experience, sharing those tender seedling ideas that we carry around in our hearts, sometimes for years, not knowing what to do to help it grow, because some things need more than one person to develop and grow into that wondrous something that has untold potential. But then, when we gather together, and begin to talk, magic happens, things do begin to grow, and faster than you could have imagined. And we all realise that it is possible to do things differently than we are told. It is possible to do business another way, that things don't always have to involve money, or multinational companies, or foreign businesses, that we have everything we need right here on our doorstep. We have the community we need, right here in our town. And you know what? So do you!

The most exciting thing we have discovered is that as soon as you begin to speak, to ask for what you need, you find it's right there, down the street from you, in your community, and it has been all along. There is a network of amazing people all around you who want the same things for themselves and their families that you do, and all you need is a place to come together to talk. A Common Ground to talk about the common ground you share, the back to basics, real, stuff, like how to feed your family, how to provide a real and rich experience for your children of what the world really is, and how people really do want to help one another, because it benefits us all, in the end. And in doing so, we discover how to pare away the unnecessary, stifling, consumer mentality we are all infected with, and to get real again, connect with people in a heartfelt way that brings untold riches of the kind we haven't felt since childhood. 

Last Saturday evening we hosted another event, this time a pop-up restaurant, a seated, four course, vegetarian meal for 30 folks, in a studio in what was once a factory that made the rather famous Beverley Bags in the 50's and 60's, and I found myself In My Element. Seeing all these people, many of them strangers to one another, gathered together and talking talking talking, connecting, sharing food and drink and laughter, stories and ideas and intentions, well, I thought my heart would burst with happiness.

It's all true, you know, what we know in our hearts; that we all want the same thing in the end. A safe place, with love and support, a community that lifts us all up, collectively nurturing and sustaining us, and that carries us forward into a hopeful future where we are doing things the way we want to.

Local friends, and anyone interested, you can find us,
And online on our website here. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Blackberry And Apple Crumble, Oh My! from Milkmoon Kitchen.

Six months ago we moved house. We left behind a little cottage that sat in a field by the sea, with a marshland spread out behind us, and a clear view to the mountains. A country setting, by all accounts. Our exciting, and thoroughly successful, I might add, move to a town setting, meant, I assumed, that we had left the country behind. But every day I have been reminded by the tenacity of Mother Nature. There simply is no getting away from it, is there? Thankfully!

We were very particular about where we ended up, in particular about staying by the sea, and with some compromise on other things, we now find ourselves surrounded by a neighbourhood of old gardens, dating from a time when people grew their food, and being self-sustaining was just the norm, (and not that long ago, either!)
In the summer it was flowers that did it. A walk around town was a joy from start to finish, a perfumed soliloquy on the glory of the pure, and yes tenacious, smorgasbord we have right here, beneath our feet, spilling over the walls as we pass, nodding to us, brushing our shoulder, whispering in our ears and causing us to forget what we were just saying or thinking, gently persuading us to pause and inspect, or smell, ooh and ahh, and oh, what a pleasure it all was!

And now autumn has arrived, and oh my, it's as though Mother Nature saved the best for last, and has just opened yet another cupboard, beckoning to us in our breathless wonder as we inhale the perfume that is now made into something else, a deep earthy something, born of pollen and spores and the abundance of flora that came together over the summer months, collided in the air, entangled with one another in the tango of love, danced the summer dance before drifting down to settle into the undisturbed sleep of winterness. A potent concoction of humus and decay that reassures the soul.
It's my favourite time of year.

And so, over the last month, a walk around the neighbourhood has been a delight of another, abundant kind. Everywhere you go there is fruit hanging over the walls, apples, pears, and the occasional plum tree. And the blackberries! They are my favourite, just pushing and poking their way through every crack and crevice, through every hedgerow, and the lovely thing is, for all the gorgeousness and pride of these local gardens, there's very few that don't have brambles somewhere amidst the bushes, and there they are allowed to be, undisturbed.
We even have a beautiful big, old walnut tree around the corner, out on the roadside, and not so long ago, before I realised what it was, there was fruit for the taking.
Next year.

So, yes, there is an inordinate amount of pleasure to be had in abundance from an unexpected source. And this apple crumble has been our go to dish when visiting friends, or having people over. The crumble is particularly yummy. It is gluten, sugar and dairy free, of course, though I guarantee just as palatable to omnivores of all persuasions.


8 eating apples, (or 4 each pears and apples), peeled, cored and quartered,
120ml honey or maple syrup,
60g dried fruit, I used a mix of golden sultanas, cherries, and berries, or a handful of fresh blackberries,
170g fine oatflakes,
30g mixed toasted seeds and nuts,
2tbls unrefined sunflower oil, (I think I'll try coconut oil next time!)

Oven:  Gas 5, 190C, 375F


As we are using eating apples, due to the fact there is no refined sugar used in this recipe, there is no need to stew the apples first.

1) Roughly chop the apples and lay them out in an ovenproof dish.
2) Drizzle with about 30g of the honey/maple syrup.
3) Sprinkle with the dried fruit.
4) In a bowl, mix the oatflakes, nuts and seeds.
5) Add the oil and the rest of the honey/maple syrup, and mix until all the flakes are coated in the oil.
6) Sprinkle over the fruit.
7) Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden, and the fruit mixture is bubbling.

If you can manage to not eat every morsel of this when it comes out of the oven, it tastes even better the next morning, as a delicious, nutritious breakfast.
Enjoy it with yogurt of your choice; dairy, soya or my latest obsession, coconut!

Footnote: The other morning I looked out my bedroom window, down at the dozens of shiny red apples that bobbed against the grey sky, and wondered for the millionth time about how on earth we were going to reach them. The lower branches have been picked clean, but all the rest were far beyond our reach. Later in the day, as I sat in work, putting finishing touches to this post, I got a phone call from our eldest lad saying he was just home, and was I aware the apple tree was lying across the garden? The lovely old thing, our collective favourite thing about the whole package that is this house, top heavy with it's bumper crop, added to which was the weight of days of rain, simply keeled over. Just like that. We are all very sad.

Where I Likely Am In My Head, When You Are Talking To Me...

Blog post and recipe for my gluten free, sugar free, vegan, 
apple and blackberry crumble, over on 'the other' blog:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Autumn Spiced Apple Cake from Milkmoon Kitchen.

Many years ago, one blustery, wet autumn day much like today, I found myself surrounded by bags of apples from friends gardens, which, naturally, led to a hankering for apple cake. I was disappointed to discover I had no eggs, and really did not feel like getting in my car, (I think there may have been pyjamas involved), and for the first time I considered how reliant I was on eggs for baking. After rummaging through my various cookery books, I eventually stumbled upon a recipe that did not need any eggs, that was filled with stewed apple, spices, and lots of raisins and sultanas. It was in one of those anonymous baking books you pick up in the supermarket for a few quid, that turns out to be brilliant, and one that is reached for again and again over the years.

After the storm ~ blue skies.

These days I find myself with my own (rather large, and very old) apple tree, and an increasing interest in baking without eggs. The other day, with my dearest sister and her family home from Mexico for a family wedding, I found myself with an excuse to do some baking, (does one actually need an excuse to bake?) and this was the first recipe that came to mind. This is a cake that really only ever gets made this time of year, (I do have a thing for seasonal food), and the last few autumns I have been making it for the family, unable to eat it myself, but this year I was inspired to experiment and see if I could tweak the recipe so I could. Obviously it had to be edible for everyone else, though it's rare they ever turn their nose up at anything sweet I make. Dessert is dessert, after all!
So, here it is, reinvented so that it is both gluten and sugar free, and vegan friendly. And I can tell you it has lost nothing on flavour and deliciousness, and the bonus is that the house smells divine as it bakes, a yummy, spicy wafting that draws people into the kitchen looking to see what's cooking. It's dense and moist, with the nuts adding just the right amount of bite to it.
You'll notice I use eating apples. As there is no sugar in this recipe, using eating apples means it's sweet enough without it. I served it with a choice of Alpro vanilla custard, or natural yogurt, for those who preferred. And if you can manage to save some, it is even nicer the following day.

After the storm.


675g eating apples, peeled, cored and quartered
150ml agave syrup
15ml/1tbsp water
350g flour, I use Doves Farm Gluten Free
1 and a quarter tsp bicarb of soda
1tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
175g raisins, or half and half raisins and golden sultanas, as I did
150g chopped walnuts, or mixed nuts
225g dairy free 'butter'
1tsp vanilla essence

Oven: Gas 3, 160C, 325F


1. Put the apples and the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until soft, stirring occasionally. Eating apples might take less time than cooking ones. I also found my ones didn't break down into pulp, the way cookers do, though that just might be our variety. Leave to cool.
At this stage you may want to thoroughly butter and line your tin. I used a 9in round tin this time, though a similar sized tube tin works really well too.

2. Sift the flour, bicarb of soda, and the spices into a bowl, making sure to toss in whatever is left in the sieve if using a more 'wholegrain' flour. Remove about 2tbs of this mixture and, in another bowl, toss it with the raisins, sultanas and nuts.

3. Cream the 'butter' and the agave syrup well together. Fold in the apple mixture. Then fold the flour mixture into this. Stir in the vanilla, and then add the fruit and nuts mixture. Pour into your tin, and bake until a skewer comes out clean, although this is tricky to tell as there is so much yummy apple in there.
Roughly about an hour and a half, though it's a fairly low oven so it might take longer or shorter, depending on your oven.
When it's done, cool it completely in the tin before turning it out.

The original recipe, for those who can, just use whatever flour, plain or wholewheat, you usually use, and dairy butter.
For those who can eat sugar, you can replace the agave syrup with about 400g sugar, though a good bit less if still using eating apples. If using cookers, add a tbsp of the sugar to them when stewing them. The original recipe also had a lovely icing on it, that I have yet to figure out how to replace. Visually it misses it, but taste wise, it does just lovely without it.

For the icing, for those who like:

115g icing sugar
Quarter tsp vanilla ess.
30-45ml milk of your choice

4. Put the sugar in a bowl, add the vanilla, then slowly add the milk, mixing it in thoroughly, until it is smooth and has a thick, pouring consistency. Transfer the cake to a serving plate, and drizzle the icing on top. If you like, you can sprinkle it with some chopped nuts. Allow the icing to set before serving.


In The Midst Of Autumn, Suddenly.

What is it about this time of year?
When the green has grown tired, and the wind is taking it's toll
leaves blown about the garden
sheets snapping on the line
and in the morning there are apples on the ground

Between deepest blue skies and grey stormy tussles
the quivering green and the brightest berry reds arrest my eye
pause me in my movement through the day

I am lured by the sea, still,
though not so eager to go in
drawn instead to it's hunger
a deepening boom that resounds from it's depths
it's summer humour gone now

And I will wait
for the darkening days to draw in
to wrap themselves around us
pulling into the dark days and nights
when we move indoors
when time becomes our own again
the wild outside to be first considered carefully
the carefree, go-in-what-you-have-on-you days put to bed for another year

I will watch the green withdraw
sink back into the restful earth
into the silence
into the long wait for spring

In the quiet we will embrace the calm
while outside winter heaves itself about
breathlessly trying to catch itself
and my pen will scratch, my needle stitch
my eyes always on the sky and the sea


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Just Before You Go, Summer.....

Well, these last few mornings there is a definite autumny shiver in the early air, the top of Bray Head has a wooly cap of damp clouds just sitting on it, and the milky sunlight filters through the apple boughs that are literally bowing under their swag. School is looming, literally imminently, and we are getting ready to embrace our first autumn in a house with heating in it! Suddenly, my love for this season has grown tenfold.
Fittingly, a whole new chapter is beginning for me, in so many ways I couldn't list them here, their microscopicness adding up to a Significantness that thrills me and excites me and has me revving to go.

But first, as a Last Blast before that school business is upon us, and to celebrate the return of my man, we took ourselves off on a little adventure, back across this island of ours again, this time out into the west of Ireland. Poor Jay missed all our traipsing and trekking, all our adventuring on beaches and down boreens, and all the fine, unexpected weather we had, so we just had to squeeze something in. And if this mild weather continues into the autumn, we will just do the same, we will take it and run with it for as long as we can.

We rolled along the winding roads, under those white skies that shower occasional fine rain, that sit high and hard above us, not gloomy, but with a bright glare that turns the landscape into a glowing, magical vista. Everything about it so familiar to myself and Jay, though it's been two decades since we were here, and I found my heart filled with fondness, with tender memories of those young things we were when last we walked the streets of Galway city. Oh how we have changed!

And of course, there had to be a beach, and an extra special one this time, a glowing wonder of a coral beach, the likes of which I'd never seen. The water appeared tropical in it's hues, set as it is against the glow of the coral sand, but I can vouch that it is by no means tropical! It was cold! But in we got, regardless, and it was delicious.

We took a winding road back, the scenic route, stopping whenever we fancied. Meandering, I think is the word, and I savoured the pleasure of unhurried meandering, for I know it is coming to an end now, for another year.

But in the midst of my lament for the end of summer, I admit, I have never felt so ready to get back into the swing and routine of school, of all that autumn brings.
In spite of missing Jay, or perhaps because of it, along with the good weather, we have had The Best Summer Ever. We had to, or it would have been unbearably lonely without him. I have never been more grateful for the brilliant timing of a Random Act of Nature, for this out of the blue amazing summer we had, for it allowed us an excuse to make the most of it, and get out there and enjoy it.

And so, back home now, it's the first day of school, for some, and as I sit with my steaming cup, looking out my window at the slightly worn and fading green that looks partied out and hung over,  the early morning sun is now creeping over the top of the headland, and I hear the first stirrings upstairs, the creak of floorboards above my head, the murmur of sleepy voices. 
And so it begins.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Date Oat, And Orange Squares from Milkmoon Kitchen.

Sweet things. They are the challenge for me, and while I don't have much of a sweet tooth anymore, I still like to provide treats for Jay and the kids that are healthy, and that I can eat, if I feel like it. I have two children who will devour any treats I make, and two who won't, unless there is chocolate involved. Anything too healthy looking they won't even look at. This here is something I love to make when I do feel like something sweet, and even if the two fussy ones won't eat it, the rest of us do, with gusto.

This recipe is from one of my favourite books, Blazing Salads, which is also a vegetarian, wholefood deli at 42 Drury St. Dublin. When we were living in Dublin, they had a restaurant in the Powerscourt Townhouse, and I would go miles out of my way, if I had to, to get some of their pumpkin, sweet potato and almond turnovers, or their brown rice balls with aduki beans. It was our number one place to meet certain friends, people who equally appreciated their, for it's time, groundbreaking cuisine. Gosh, I miss that place.... These days, any time I get into the city they are still on my list of places to visit, any time I can.

Dates do have a pretty high sugar content, so have a high GI content, but they have so much other good stuff in them like fiber, calcium and potassium, that it makes them a wonderful, occasional treat.


985g pitted dates
140ml fresh orange juice
240g organic fine oatflakes
120g brown rice flour
90g ground almonds
1 orange
150ml natural sunflower oil
50ml organic apple juice concentrate

Oven: Gas 5, 190C, 375F


1. Wash the dates, place in a pot and add water up to level with the top of the dates. Place a lid on top, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir 40ml of the fresh orange juice and mix until smooth. Set aside.

2. Oil a 23cm (9in) square baking tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Oil the paper.

3. In a mixing bowl mix the oatflakes, rice flour, and ground almonds together. Using a zester, remove the rind of the orange and mix with the dry ingredients. Stir in the sunflower oil, apple juice concentrate, orange juice, and the juice from the zested orange into the dry ingredients. Mix well.

4. With dampened fingers, press two thirds of the mixture firmly into the baking tin. Spread the dates on top. Gently press the remainder of the mixture on top of the dates.

5. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool and slice into about 12 pieces.

 Even though it has the same mixture on top and on the bottom, baking it makes the top golden and crumbly, while all that orange juice soaking into the bottom makes it deliciously damp and moist.
It keeps for a few days in the fridge, if it lasts that long without being eaten, and is delicious for breakfast the next day, especially with a good dollop of natural yogurt, for those who fancy it.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Holding Fast.

I'm afraid I'd have nothing more to show you here but more beaches, for there have been many more since last I wrote.
There has also been occasional rainy days, though there is a faint whisper of autumn in the morning now, and the apple tree in the garden is laden with red, ripening fruit, and we are beginning to tingle with that sense of urgency now, to cram in as much Summer as we can before the leaves begin to turn.
Yet again, Jay has been away for six weeks now, has missed this marvelous summer we have had, all the way across the other side of the world, in Australia. We have kept ourselves busy, true, but it's not the same without him.

Portrait Of My Sleeping Husband.
(I did this of Jay just before he left)

We are counting the days until we see him, and then there will be yet more cramming while we ignore the calendar that goes on counting down without us, to the return of School. That we will ignore, yes, until the last possible day, and take ourselves off again, over the mountains to visit some dear friends, and then on until we reach the other side of this island.

We will not think of that other S word until the bell rings and we really have to.

In the next day or so, I will have something new to share. And maybe some of those beaches.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Summer - And Nothing More....

Oh hello, there you are, or rather, here we are, in the midst of Summer! Do you see that capital S there at the beginning of the word Summer? Well, I have to tell you, this year it has to have a capital S, because that is what we are having, a proper, capital, long-awaited, hot, hot summer. And it just keeps going on and on and on, and we are not complaining, not one bit!

So, the floors have a permanent dusting of sand, the chores are done to a minimum, for as happens most other years, no matter what the weather, we have simply dropped everything and just taken ourselves off to one beach or another, and let me tell you there have been quite a few, with more to come.

Ahh, the joys of living on an island! I estimate we will have been to no fewer than ten different beaches by summer's end, with definite potential for others I haven't accounted for yet. With such a variety of beaches so close to home (and some further afield) it is impossible to not take advantage of it. Some are perfect for swimming, some for body boarding, some for rock pooling, and some for building epic sandcastles!
I am so very grateful to still have children young enough to have an excuse for spending countless hours, days, just Being At The Beach.

And for the days when other things take us elsewhere, the best part is, we can walk out the door in the evening, before or after dinner, and stroll down to the seafront for a dip, pausing to chat with friends or neighbours we meet along the way, maybe stopping for an icecream, or occasional bag of salty chips, watching the fairground rides against the dimming sky as we wander back up the hill to home.