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A Bloggers Trip

Folks, I got invited on my first ever bloggers trip last month.  Needless to say, I was excited and delighted to accept the invitation.

Now before you all think I was whisked off to an exotic beach…. you could be right.  However, the truth is I was invited to attend the Taste of Carlow event, which was even better than a day at the beach.

Yes, another Midlands county that kind of gets by-passed by all the tours and tour operators.  It is a fate that befalls pretty much all the Midland counties of Ireland. Tourists land in Shannon, or Dublin, and off they go…. all around the coast.  Now I am not saying that our coastline isn’t wonderful…. in fact, I think the Wild Atlantic Way is a wonderful initiative, and I just love some of the promotional stuff…. but could we maybe have a Meander the Magical Midlands initiative?

(I just thought that up now…. it isn’t half bad…. should I patent it?)

Anyway back to my trip to Carlow.

We were blessed with a beautiful day.  I had an early start, out of here at 8 a.m., leaving Alfie in charge of our AirBnB guests – Martha and Emmet – who were very understanding of my rude early departure.

Our bloggers day consisted of history, scenery, food (lots of it), gardens… really a mix of everything…. something to suit all tastes.

We did so much I could be posting forever…. but let me tell you about my highlights… which are in no particular order.

Our Carlow Guide :

Bianka of Carlow Tours

Bianka of Carlow Tours

 

Bianka of Carlow Tours….. what a treasure.  She told us so much about each place we visited, and had such interesting snippets to share, to make the stories more real.  Seriously, if you are heading to Carlow make sure to book a tour with Bianka.

Historical Carlow :

I just loved Duckett’s Grove Castle.  The Castle suddenly seems to appear before you, with a magnificent drive up to it.  We walked around the Castle and Gardens, and, of course, stopped at The Tea Rooms for tea and the most delicious scones ever.

Duckett's Grove Castle

Duckett’s Grove Castle

Browneshill Dolmen…. now how on earth did they arrange those stones without modern day lifting equipment?

Browneshill Dolmen

Huntington Castle…. this place is totally amazing!  We had a quick ramble around the beautiful gardens, walked along the Yew Walk, before doing the tour of the Castle.  We were also shown some of the more private rooms…. believe me this is an amazing family home.  Then, of course, it was time to stop for more tea…. this time in the magnificent courtyard.

Huntington Castle - Yew Walk

 

Loved the colours and vibrancy of these flowers on display from The Flowerfield at Huntington Castle.

The Flowerfield display

Scenic Carlow:

A little detour was arranged to take us to Mount Leinster.  In typical Irish weather fashion, having had glorious sunshine all day as soon as we got to the top the rain came down…. but we could still all imagine the magnificent views.

The rain came down :(

The rain came down :(

Taste of Carlow:

What can I say about the food we had throughout the day?  There were those delicious scones at Duckett’s Grove, the magnificent picnic lunch arranged for us by Carlow Farmers Market, the treats bought at the market, the trip to Malone’s Fruit Farm where I was completely taken by the Smoked Garlic, sips of Elderflower Champagne and Sloe Gin from Mary of Blackstairs Eco Trails – there was a danger that Lisa of Isle Magazine and myself might have stayed there for the afternoon! The day culminated in an absolutely delicious meal at The Step House in Borris where Chef Alan Foley truly pulled out all stops.  My personal favourites of our tasting menu?  The Salmon, the pork and the duck were so so good.

Dinner at The Step House

Dinner at The Step House

 

Major, major thank you to Dee and Susan from Green & Vibrant for organising such a magnificent day….. they’ve kind of thrown down the gauntlet for me to figure out a way to invite them over this side of the Midlands :)  And thanks must also go to fellow bloggers who made the day such an enjoyable one – Lorna (Irish Farmerette), David (Beyond the Wild Garden), and Sophia and Lisa from Isle Magazine.

 

Friday Photo

Super moon with pink cow :)

Super Moon & Pink Cow :)

Super Moon & Pink Cow :)

Friday Photo

Some of the delicious goodies we brought back from a visit to Ardkeen Grocers in Waterford…. am jealous of you if you live close enough to get there regularly.

All from Ardkeen Grocers

All from Ardkeen Grocers

Oldfarm Granola

I know I’ve told you all a million times about how I can’t do wheat.  The most restrictive thing about being wheat intolerant is the lack of breakfast cereals.

I kid you not.  Take a look at the list of ingredients on any breakfast cereal pack….. they all list wheat in there somewhere, except for porridge.

I hate porridge.  I hate it so much.  It is not even the flavour, it is the texture.  I remember being practically force-fed it as a child.  Totally yuck.

However, the totally weird thing about me, is that I’ll actually eat oat flakes ‘raw’ as in a muesli or granola…. but not cooked.

I’ve often made muesli here but after a while it gets a bit boring, so lately I decided to revisit the whole ‘granola’ concept.  When I was a kid we did not have granola.  I think I first heard of it when I went to the States, and yet, now it is everywhere.  Again, however, you have to search for a ‘wheat free’ version.

Oldfarm Granola

Oldfarm Granola

The solution for me is to make my own.  I’ve been experimenting, and I think I’ve cracked it with this recipe.

This amount lasts me a couple of weeks but I wouldn’t necessarily eat it every day. It is also really nice to just ‘snack’ on whenever you pass the jar, so it just may not last quite as long as you think.

Obviously, you can substitute whatever seeds you like – this is just the mix that works for me.

Ingredients:

  • 140 g organic oat flakes
  • 25 g linseed
  • 20 g sunflower seeds
  • 10 g flax seeds
  • 10 g sesame seeds
  • 50 g dried fruit of your preference – I’ve used mango, apple, sultanas.
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil – melted.
  • 40 g runny honey – I used our own which is so delicious

Method:

Preheat your oven to 150 deg C/300F/Gas 2.

Mix all your dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Melt your coconut oil and mix in the honey.

Add the oil and honey to your dry ingredients.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment.  Spread your mixture onto the tray.

Bake for about 23 minutes.  Allow to cool.

Store in a jar until you are ready to use.

As you can see you can vary this as much as you like by adding toasted almonds, coconut, pumpkin seeds… whatever takes your fancy.

Let me know if you try it.  :)

A special tree

With a lot of the plants we have here, I can easily tell you where they came from, whether they were bought or given to us by friends or neighbours… and I love that, I think it adds more interest to the garden.  Even if it is only for me.

We have many apple trees here.  There are 13 apple trees in the woods beside us, one of which has the most gorgeous cooking apples you could imagine.  Then there are 2 very old varieties that were planted right beside the house a long time ago.

Then there is THE apple tree – a Gala Apple tree.

Gala Apple Tree

Gala Apple Tree

It came with us from Donabate.  Alfie had enjoyed an apple, it now seems like a million years ago, and decided he was going to plant the seed.

I, with my sound gardening knowledge, said “there is no point in doing that, it will never fruit, you have to graft apple trees”.  I was ignored.

The little pip sprouted.  It grew into a sturdy little plant, and by the time we moved down here it was probably about 2 feet tall.  It was left in its tub while we  Alfie decided where to plant it.

Eight months later.  Alfie has chest pains, not feeling well, rushed to hospital, sent home, told nothing wrong.  Local doctor thankfully wasn’t quite happy with this response, so decided to send him for a stress test.

Sent Alfie home until he made the arrangements.

Guess what Alfie decides to do????  Yes, you are right.  He decided it was time to plant THE apple tree.

Major hole had to be dug.  Guess who rings with details of the stress test while he’s down that hole???   Stress test was next day, so, of course, you must finish planting your apple tree.

I have to admit to still scoffing at the idea of expecting fruit off this tree.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, 3 years ago, I drive past THE apple tree and it was in bloom.

And this year it has provided the most amazing apples.

Homegrown Gala Apples

Homegrown Gala Apples

I have been proven wrong.

 

Friday Photo

We are complete again.  Normal business shall resume shortly.  Happy Camper :)

Replacement lens

Replacement lens

Friday Photo

Enjoying the evening sun…. and, no, she doesn’t move to allow you to pass by :)

Rua enjoying the evening sun

Rua enjoying the evening sun