Castle Leslie

Going away without the kids. It makes me jittery to even think of it! It is nerve wracking and guilt inducing (all Mammies live with perennial guilt I feel) but sends a tentative shiver of excitement, a thrill down the spine too. Forbidden fruit and all that.

The potential. Eating dinner whilst staying in one spot. No jumping up and down to various needs. No food bolting. Just indulgent enjoyment. No nappies.

No worries about rude, sudden steps appearing to block stroller access or changing facility availability.

Looking after one set of clothes.

No missing dodo freak out. 

No strict naptime to adhere to…Unless it is for you.

Which brings me to the magic words…lie in. bitmoji-20160624011618

My husband has been trying desperately for weeks to plan a weekend away and in the end organised a VERY fancy pants weekend to Castle Leslie . It is where Paul McCartney married Heather Mills, sir-paul-mccartney-1429499_640don’t you know, thereby reinvigorating interest and popularity in the old pile and now tourists flock through the doors.

Including Mr Paper and myself!

He is spoiling me.

Betsy has had a hard time but a diagnosis of reflux (again!) and the introduction of Gaviscon (Groundhog Day) are actually appearing to have made a difference so I was not so panicked about leaving the little ladies. Mr Paper’s extremely efficient sister and her husband, alongside a (much loved by Gigi) daughter (aged eight) were coming en force to mind the Paper ladies.

We packed. I overcooked. I labelled anything not moving (much to sister in law’s amusement) and maybe even stuck lables on the children’s heads as precautions. I explained all to Gigi calling it a holiday so she would have the idea. Thankfully Peppa goes on holiday (to Italy!) So this was an acceptable, logical and rational amount of information for our eldest.

If Peppa does it, then it is ok!

We left.

We were OK. No one cried. No one screamed.  Everyone was happy.

The children were content too…!

We had coffees halfway there. Just us two. Outside a cafe on benches. Mr Paper relaxed. I furiously looked through my phone images showing pictures to him of our kids as if they were little people he had never seen before.

We got there. Two and half hours driving. Wrecked and hungry. I must say it was nice not to unpack a million bags. Just this once.

This beautiful getaway in Co.Monaghan is a luxurious, fairytalesque and a restorative place for a couple to reconnect. We did just that this weekend and right here in this glorious estate, surrounded by nature and simplicity.

Walking into history.

It is attached to the quaint village of Glaslough.

We left the estate for one drive-in a type of poetry pilgrimage- to Inniskeen, the birthplace and burial site of poet Patrick Kavanagh. 20160618_113059I have mentioned him before when I blogged Cupid shoots Poetry, focusing on a ballad I love called On Raglan Road, but arguing the fact that it is not a typical ‘love’ poem in topic. My favourite poem of all time is A Christmas Childhood Click here to read it by Kavanagh but I found myself thinking more of  Inniskeen Road: July Evening whilst there. We visited his grave-a modest affair. I looked eagerly for the entrance to the Patrick Kavanagh Resource Centre. It is closed on Saturday and Sunday. The cafe that looked geared towards tourists conflictingly announced it was open …but it was actually closed. I can now see why Kavanagh got so wound up with Inniskeen! Kavanagh felt a paradoxical love/hate relationship with his home and I still have some belief it was partly a self imposed isolation he felt at times. As a teenager studying Kavanagh and reading Inniskeen Road: July Eveninginniskeen-road-july-evening I casually judged his inability to socialise and wondered why he didn’t hop on his bicycle and join the gangs on the way to Billy Brennan’s dance! He was just uncomfortable. He is now buried in Inniskeen and as prettily rural and calm as it is, the tourist trail hasn’t enlivened it from what I can see! I wonder if he would liked better in modern times? Or headed for the bright lights of Dublin once again?

I’m off guys.

We stayed just twenty minutes. Lasting a lot less longer!

I am still very pleased to have visited the homeland of a much studied poet.

We went back to our oasis.

Food was key. We dined like kings.

Or former Beatles.

There was a six course extravaganza Saturday night consisting of much foam, steam, curlicues of this and that, gravalax guest appeared and truffle oil starred. Natch! Amuse bouche anyone? Dessert was amazing. A very Masterchef style focusing on the theme of lemon. I keep getting flashbacks. Mr Paper had a cheese board and what an impressive affair that was! I have no pictures. I abandoned the phone. Just this one time!

We had  MUCH indigestion.  I confess to having enjoyed that meal but preferring the food the night previous in the castle bar-Conor’s bar. A pork and chorizo burger on pretzel bread. Glass of Pinot bitmoji-20160624012649Grigio. Fabulous!

A little wander around the stables was relaxing and fun. We watched some lessons and lived a different life for an hour.

Spa treatments occurred. Facials. One thing as a a Mam I have realised is that I have foregone proper skin care at night in favour of a quick wash and moisturiser rub. I know this will ultimately mean aging early (yikes) so the facial was great. The spa insight is called The Victorian Rooms and is designed using all the typical duck egg blues, off whites and sage greens of the period. So pretty! Lying on a chaise longue, peppermint tea and a small glass of fruit smoothie afterwards, I almost felt like myself again.

Going green.

It was wonderful to relax. A few drinks. A few treats. Sleep.

It was good to get home to our babies too.

Getting away is essential if you can do it. This time was an especially wonderful treat.

I have brought home a little piece of Glaslough with me though…a reminder.

Who doesn’t love a village that makes its own chocolate?



Kitchen Timesavers

I love cooking. Babies don’t always allow you to savour the process though. It becomes a chore. Meals must be provided and in that case, provisions must be made to cook quality food…on a timer.


When you are pregnant and planning before the big event, you try so hard to be ready for what is to come. People give advice both frightening and sensible, generous of spirit and some judgmental. Taking it all in is overwhelming. It is not until babies are here however that you really know the merits and demerits of various gadgets and gizmos and what works for you.

doodle-1070322_640I have blogged before about cutting yourself some slack when being a parent is tough in Surviving Unexpected Toddler Bugs  but if you are like me and really don’t want to overuse the ready meal (only when illness has taken over) then these few tips might help. I am going to write about my kitchen time savers. Small, often obvious and yet somehow not always utilised, maybe someone might get a good tip from this little list!

  1. Frozen Chopped Herbs and Vegetables. I mean, I knew these existed. I use frozen bagged peas and corn. I once visited my friend who has three children under five and she was multitasking like a demon whilst I hobbled about, heavily pregnant with my first, aimlessly attempting to ‘help’ while she actually achrieved. I remember she made Shepherd’s pie and threw in a bag of mixed (frozen) veg. I was always an advocate of fresh in my pies but now I know. It is better to serve your family home cooked, hot with a bit of a fast track than nothing! These days I am loving frozen chopped herbs and garlic. Who has time to peel garlic?? Jamie Oliver doesn’t even do that anymore! Frozen bag and off you go. Happy days!!20160609_163547-1.jpg
  2. Sharp Knife (mine is an Ulu knife). I hope most of you are wondering what I am talking about became I hadn’t a clue what this was until we were on our trip to Alaska! We bought one as a souvenir from Juneau. It is a type of knife used to gut fish with, efficient and sharp. I never expected to use it but after giving it a shot, I was hooked. This wonder slices everything in seconds with minimal mess. I now wonder whereabouts in Ireland I would get a replacement if the time came! Really I am saying that possession of  a sharp knife is a kitchen essential for efficiency.  I just happen to have an ulu knife!20160614_170442-13.Kickass Vegetable Peeler. Of course, you must think, we all have these. It is important though to have an excellent one to avoid time loss and frustration. It is also the best way to shave your cheese and keep an eye on the amount if you are calorie counting!vegetable-peeler-613142_640

4. One Bowl Baking. I like to bake with Gigi at least once per week and she loves it, ‘mixey mixey’ as she calls it. If we have something edible at the end, great. Therefore those baking recipes where I can put all in one bowl and then pour into buncases rock. We occasionally cheat with a Betty Crocker

Cheat day! I prefer to bake fresh so Queen Cakes or Banana Breads are popular in our home. One bowl bakes!  (The trick is to have melted the butter in advance).

Banana Muffins. Using up overripe bananas with yummy results. One bowl, mixey mixey.


5.Pasta Sauces. Make a big pot one day  (when you can) and let it simmer away getting more yummy. Tinned tomatoes, garlic, onion, herbs and a few chopped cherry tomatoes together make a lovely sauce especially when seasoned. If you like, make a cheese sauce (combine milk and your cheese choices, melt slowly and season as you wish). If making a cheese sauce, it comes off the hob fairly quickly and requires watching. When your tasty sauces cool, add ladles of the mixture to freezer bags (ones that seal well) and pack them FLAT in  your freezer, saving space. You could break the sauces up before you pour, adding chili to some or bacon pieces to others. Don’t forget to date and label! Someday, when life is tough, you can have a decent dinner in ten minutes and not rely on prepacked. Batch cooking meals is often advice given for new parents and I agree but this takes up whole Saturdays! So I reckon batch cooking just sauces is a quicker way of doing the same thing.

6. Gadgets. We don’t own a microwave so am I justified in talking about gadgets? Yes!  I see no harm in trying out the latest time saving advice on occasion and if it doesn’t work out we part ways speedily. If it works out, we have a winner!

Apple slicer and a hand juicer. Great gadgets and also an aesthetically pleasing burst of colour.
I really cannot get the idea of this at all.  It has hidden away in my drawer sneakily  avoiding being evicted for months due to its size and ability to conceal itself.
Three inch grater. Love it. Perfect for parmesan toppings etc.

7. Food Scissors. Invest in a decent scissors for the kitchen especially for food and you have another winner. Cut meat in seconds.scissors-1332795_640My blog readers will know that I have found mothering tough lately, see Why is Everyone Crying?if you fancy a look. This post is to help me stay positive and realise that I am achieving something. My children are eating healthily and we are all surviving. That is a pretty big deal, all considering!

Good luck saving time in the kitchen!


Why is Everyone Crying?

Why is everyone crying?

This is the question that I have found myself saying more often than not recently.

Out loud occasionally but to no listeners.

They are too busy crying😢😦

There have been quite a few occasions in the last while where I have been quite ready to tear my overheated, clammy, uncomfortable skin off. Our smallest girl is very unsettled and has cried a lot, sometimes for up to four hours. It means she is stressed, we are pained watching her pain, we get no evening time and in the morning (Betsy awakening at normal time and seemingly unaffected by last night’s high jinks), we are zombies.


Could it be the heat? We have had days and days (really!!) of temperatures as high as 26°. This is miraculous in our world. She might not like it despite wearing light clothes and being well protected etc. I am not great with humidity either. It is our pale skinned, dark haired, freckled of face origin. We are not sun friends. It could be uncomfortable for her too. She can’t tell me.


It could be food. She might be ready for another day time feed, we thought. We have therefore added a feed so now she is on three meals per day with bottles. We hope.

It could be food intolerances. I have followed a structured ‘three day for a new food’ structure to rule out digestion problems but I always thought she didn’t digest her bottled food easily anyway. I went to the doctor on numerous occasions and am on a waiting list for a specialist in the hospital. We should see the doctor before Betsy turns thirteen. The list is ridiculously long. Sarcasm is required here. I mean at that stage I really hope she can tell me, ‘Mammy milk makes me sick’ or whatever. I feel just helpless. In fact helpless doesn’t quite cover it.

Teeth. Of course.  We all think that is the problem and I reckon it is. Try being confident you can ascertain the cause in the middle of a crying blast though. Hours of discontented baby can make you question your own name. Medicines, teething gels, amber beads, teethers, cool wash towels and prayers aren’t helping.


What next?

She is now difficult to put down for naps. I find it very tough. Rocking in her chair is the only certainty and that is not a good thing to do.

Mothers. We are hard on ourselves, aren’t we?


Gigi is trying to help with soothers and toys. She has been great, yet as a normal two year old she bangs her head, trips up, gets frustrated and then she might cry. Weird things upset toddlers. Today pineapple chunks made her extremely upset. It took a while (and hysteria) to make me realise it was because they weren’t just apple.

On the occasions when both smallies are crying, devastated and upset, I think I cannot cope. I stand there bewildered and desperate, and ask, ‘Why is everyone crying?’.

I have energy at the start of the bouts but by the time they end I need to lie down.

In a cupboard preferably. A silent one.

Naturally I never lie down.

Rocking in rage.

Have you heard people refer to babies as ‘good’or ‘cross’? Those phrases make my blood boil.

Labels attach.

My little sweetie is friendly and smiling. She is sociable. She loves people.

She is just having it tough and us along with her.


Two front teeth? A top row to complement the bottom?

Whenever you are ready guys, we are waiting. Little choppers, stop giving my baby such a tough time. Fairy of teeth I am willing to testify anywhere out loud and defiantly that I do believe in fairies but please use your influence to help Betsy’s little teeth break through.

We promise to return them in a few years.


In the meantime. Betsy is crying. Not all the time, but when she is,  it is shrill enough for us to know she has pain. We are on edge. I want to cry, but find I am best at holding tears in when they are most required and let them flow to an emotive song, film or montage instead  (Up take a bow). Today I read Harriet Evans’ very touching Butterfly Summer for five minutes in a carpark while Gigi slept and I nearly lost it totally.

If you loved fairytales as a child, this one is for you. Gripping.

Responsibility as a Mammy made me put the tear inducing book away. I am sure Mr Paper wants to cry. The dogs are howling. Gigi is crying when it all goes wrong.

We are smiling when we can. Tough cookies. We will get through but in the meantime it is heavy weather. Both types.

If you are in the same boat, or related slightly, please know I am thinking of you and all the others out there who think they can’t do it. It is that word ‘cope’ again. It does rhyme with hope. Is that something?

We just have to see that we are doing it and we have to know that it will get better.

It does get better, right?bitmoji-20160611114619.png

Teachers Get Holidays

‘You teachers. You get great time off’. Spit. OK, I exaggerate. No one spits. Often. This clichéd statement is one of the many flung in accusation or even bitterness at a teacher on a typical weekly basis. There are others, but let us stick with this one for now.

I don’t doubt the verity of the sentence.

Clichéd because it is true.

We get amazing time off!!

It is the tone that often accompanies the few words that gets me!  I will not deny however that I can see why acidity may drip malevolently from a non teacher’s tongue as they discuss the educators’ holidays especially when June looms. We are becoming giddy ourselves at the image of endless weeks away from the desk. The poor accountants, farmers, shopkeepers and everyone else must stay at the grind and I can empathise having worked at many jobs myself that boasted normal holidays.

Combine the ten week break with the one continuous hot spell Ireland has seen since the glory days many moons ago and yes, teachers are hated and begrudged!

A bitter medicine.

How do we justify the holidays?

Largely because we need it or both staff and students would have major melt downs and relaxation is key to education.

They are part of the package.

So what happens in an Irish secondary school when June begins her flirtatious advance, coquettishly cocking one hip and rolling a scarlet tipped finger towards her whilst staring in your eye, beckoning to you to something beyond the red pen and PowerPoint ?

Life can be better than this…

Many changes. Some small. Some so minute you may not notice. Some in our heads even. ..

The angry teacher begins to smile a little more. The suited one has left a top button open. Cracks an unintelligible joke. The stringent teacher suddenly doesn’t seem to realise how late you are. Again. Lunches beome lazier. Were they ways this chilled out? Windows are thrown open. The sinners in homework detention are becoming a rarer breed. The pedants are now colouring ever so slightly outside the lines. The classroom rebel loses his patience as his most trying behaviour is ignored and in fact is the teacher throwing him a jeering half smile herself?

Role reversal is on the table.


Those exam sitting students facing three weeks of state tests in June suddenly are feeling the fear. They have become the worker bees. They are asking questions they were too cool to ask before.  Last minute revision is desperately undertaken. Teachers help. Yes. They give final tutorials and notepacks. They will not refuse extra advice however their job is pretty much done. They taught their subject. Examined it. Gave tips, support and encouragement. They can do little more than issue more advice, wish them luck and see them on the other side. Their own difficult job is over. The students’ challenge is on the table now and right ahead. Do the students feel the change however?  Do they realise that are now the stressed one in the room? They are the ones almost frightened to stray from topic in case the course is not covered or sweating with pressure to get notes made and stapled, over zealous in correction, almost blindly hopeful they might learn from it for next time?

I actually always needed the glasses  Miss. I haven’t seen that board in five years.

Do they observe the teacher is quietly eating Malteasers and wearing flip-flops, casually tidying up those BBC Shakespeare cassettes, filing old handouts and dumping uncollected homework as they listen to your pleas? Considering the next boxset they might watch (we hear Boardwalk Empire is worth a go) and recklessly, mentally ‘letting go’ King Lear and his need of Super Nanny for those unruly daughters? Have you realised that she is no longer asking Padraic McGinty to take out his books? That Padraic McGinty is in fact now twitching in apprehension at his table and realising the days to listen are over and he may be in fact approaching pretty deep excrement? He actually has his books out. Boy, are they shiny clean. It is past that time. Teachers are not able to do much more. Students now must take the baton and it is up to them if they choose to run. (Did you like that analogy? We teachers have MANY!).

What do we do now? The teachers I mean.

It is likely students feel that we all slink away to our museum going, instant coffee drinking, cat hugging homes for the summer. I believe some of the younger students think we don’t leave at all,  just sink back slowly as they leave, motionlessly self-cementing  into the wall, standing lifeless until the end of August when we rise again, automaton style to repeat ourselves for another nine months!


Hate to break it to ye guys.

You are all wrong.

We do what you do.

We party.

We party like we are in 1999 and we are still nineteen. (Prince, we remember you).

Move over Kim, this butt is ready to knock yours out of the ball park.

Summer party time!


The big staff night out is important so we can look at each other in delight one last time for the season knowing we don’t have to interact again without choice until the end of August.

Oh joy!

So as the big kahuna (summer) arrives, attitudes tend to change. People become lighter. Gentler. More insane! Add temperatures hitting the mid twenties and staying so for seven days in a row (this is Ireland remember) and you have hit paydirt. Release, holidays and hot, hot sun make teachers go crazy.

We had our staff night out last Thursday. A lethal combination of staff room tensions due to massive changes in our school, normal end of term edginess, three retirements of respected and very long term staff AND 25° Celsius weather made for a potent send off.  I can liken it to TV series  Black Books when character Manny has an outbreak of ‘Dave’s Syndrome’. An instant mania sets in when the heat reaches a certain melting high. Hence crazy Lord of the Flies style behaviour ensues.

Comedian Bill Bailey captures the moment beautifully in central London!

How does this manifest itself in the world of Shakespeare, verbs, compasses and overhead projectors?


Precursor: It begins with cones after work. 99 with a flake. Passing students may be fooled into thinking this is as loco as we go, shaking their heads at how ‘sad’ we

  1. We continue to tequila shots with the German teacher who has two kids over 18, one of which sitting the Leaving Cert herself in June.


2. 80% staff attendance at a night club. A real night club. There are always a few who can’t quite get there, but in this case people who haven’t seen midnight in months chanced the flashing lights and loudspeakers. No age, subject or gender distinction. All accepted, daring someone to try stop our outlandish behaviour and ask us to leave.

3. Air Guitar release. This is therapy for a stressed Mammy and teacher like nothing else. DJ did a quick age calculation and also decided the club was full of teachers from various schools losing the plot so we were awarded a variety of hair rock classics, topped off by Take That. Never Forget at that. Think   Paradise by the Dashboard Light. The French sub who has barely spoken all year all fists and hair, screaming into a bottle. Wowsers. Head banging like a Kurt Kobain worshipper to Lithium. 

Lest we forget!

4. The single guy/lady making a two am drive of Dutch courage towards the other single guy/lady, usually lucking out and to the hilarity of us around them. No prisoners.

5. We all tell the principals/ vice principals how to run the school.

6. We all squeal at the one poor student we spot when we leave the club yelling at him/her that they should be at home studying while we laugh hysterically at our own wit.bitmoji-20160607112738

7. Dancing like no one is watching or Facebook isn’t real. Head banging. Shouting. Yelling. Heckling other schools and their teachers who are also dancing like monkeys on mind altering drugs and feeling very brave.


How we see ourselves dancing…
…versus the reality.

8. Hugging each other. That does not happen. Ever.

9.Vegetarian teachers may eat meat. Or whatever is in a chicken ball from a three am takeaway.

Fried food injection.


10. Non smokers can be found chain smoking in the smoking area. Happily.

The rest must be kept hidden..!

There you have it. Not much different to a standard work do, I know. I like to think we do it with style though!

Teachers get holidays. They can celebrate too. Immorally, drunkenly or soberly but always in an insubordinate fashion.

Thank God for role reversal time.

Let us have our moment. Let us believe we are rock stars before we make an instant coffee, hug a cat and ooh let us go to the National Gallery! New exhibition!!

Sounds pretty nice right now…

Tequila can hibernate until next June.

 div align=”center”>The Pramshed