Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Doggy People.

You're either a doggy person or you're not.We are! Since childhood I remember a succession of dogs; unconditional wagging of tails, welcoming bark, giving of paws and head resting on knee, spanning the years. They are your guarantee of regular runs and walks, witnessing every season from close by, from the primroses by the river bank, the green lace canopy of branches in the woods, crunching through the Autumn leaves together, to the paw marks and footsteps side by side in the snow. The ball or frisbee become part of the routine, faithfully returned and slowly surrendered knowing it leads to another throw! The walks are part of your day, complete with sound bites: hearing the dawn chorus (if it's a working day) to the plaintive cry of the fox at night. The advantage of your adult children still living at home is that everyone gets their walking turn! Our current dog Buddy is aptly named; he is almost a sheepdog except for his cocker spaniel ears and is a lovable Mutt. On retirement, my husband reinvented himself as a tour guide. One of the highlights on the Ring of Kerry tour is a visit to a sheep farm where a demonstration of herding sheep is given by the farmer with his Border Collie dogs. Last Summer, there was an extra attraction of a litter of Border Collie puppies at the sheep farm which led to talk of acquiring a puppy, the implication of a second dog, and how Buddy would react.The upshot was a two day trip to the Ring of Kerry with a prolonged stop at the sheep farm, near Moll's Gap to collect our new puppy Rossi (called after an Italian motorcyclist that our son follows!) As far as our new black and white puppy was concerned, he was taken from scampering around his farmyard, to being placed in a moving box that shook (an old Mini) which eventually arrived at an unfamiliar place with a smaller back grassy "farmyard." He also had a different "shed" which had two dog baskets, a washing machine and cupboards instead of the familiar bed of straw. Letting out two dogs together calls for a bit of dexterity, leads tend to tangle and you're holding the ball, frisbee and "pooper scooper" in the other hand. Rossi has settled in well, was house trained within a few weeks, gets on with his older mate and sometimes cuddles up in the same basket!  Tummy patting is the order of the day though I keep telling him there was was no time for that carry on around the farmyard! The leg of the table has been chewed, an old boot demolished, the stuffing ripped out of a faded cushion (found him sitting in the middle of a cloud of white wadding,) the Spring bulbs were rooted up and used as toys but he is an affectionate little fellow and now one of the pack! I have a soft spot for films featuring dogs;  Walt Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" and "101 Dalmatians." Recently, we saw the film "The Artist" which we loved; of course the dog Uggi stole the show! "As Good as it Gets" with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt featured a very appealing little dog.   We get our children reared, and then we're fussing about our dogs! (Please check photos!)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Most Men hate the Sales.

Last week I went into Dublin town to have a look around the shops as the Sales were on and the first big rush was over. I would not be an avid shopper but a bit of retail therapy never went amiss especially if there are genuine bargains out there. My shopping list was modest enough; a  pair of jeans, a navy cardigan  and a jumper or two of my fancy! When I was going around the Ladies Fashion departments in the bigger stores, I noticed the amount of men sitting outside the fitting rooms. To say that they had a condemned look on their faces was putting it mildly; they looked utterly miserable. Only a few hardy annuals amongst them thought of bringing a newspaper or their book. I thought of my own spouse who would never venture into the Male Fashion department during the Sales, let alone accompany me on a Ladies Fashion department Sales outing. One cannot help but wonder why the respective partners of all these condemned males did not suggest that they go off for a cup of coffee and said partner would join them in an hour or two. Certainly the man's opinion is needed when the fitting room curtains are swept back and the lady appears in the prospective garment. Is the advice  honest though? A size bigger or smaller, does my bum look too big, another shade perhaps, could be met with a soleful gaze to the wristwatch and a reply implying, are we ready to go now (which is a childhood echo of;  are we there yet?) In one department store, upstairs in the Ladies Fashions there are now islands of comfortable chairs all along the floor. Someone on the Management Team in this store has picked up on the phenomenon of the condemned men during the Sales; at least they can now be comfortable condemned men, whereas before they were uncomfortable condemned men sitting on a plastic or wooden chair outside the fitting room. My daughter was recently over in a south side shopping centre and in one of the department stores the Management Team had obviously been brainstorming to help the lot of the condemned men. Guess what they came up with? An area with comfortable chairs and a TV showing sports programmes! Women on the other hand are a more resilient breed but ladies, we just might see "chilling out" areas in our supermarkets soon offering free foot massages to get us up and down those aisles.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Nifty and Thrifty.

Thrift, described in the dictionary as "wise economic management" or "frugality" may soon become a frequent topic of conversation. Yet, if I think about it, I've been engaged in some household thrift practices over the years. Take women's tights; one can get a ladder or hole in one leg and retain a perfect second leg. Cut off the imperfect one at thigh level and discard; you're left with a one legged tight and waistband top. It might raise a few eyebrows when hanging out on the line but persevere till the same scenario happens again and you match up your two one legged tights! For this to work, you must buy the same colour tights each time.The downside is that you have two waistband tops on the tights, but in Wintertime, this gives extra warmth. If you are of a very thrifty nature, the old discarded leg can be successfully used for storing tulip bulbs which will hang in the garden shed! Other ideas for "wise economic management" are, saving the elastic bands from bunches of flowers and tweeking out the corners of Tetra packs of milk, juice or yogurt drinks. I estimate that you can save approx 0.5 ml extra per week per pack. This is a staggering 26 mls per annum. Just consider the savings you make here! Christmas time brings unique opportunities for clawing back some of the overspent cash. Scrutinise the stamps on your post carefully. You will be amazed at the amount of stamps without a postmark.Steep the stamps in cold water, remove the backing paper, dry out on a tissue and re-apply using glue stick. (Hope there are no An Post employees reading this!) Try to use your stash of stamps up in the Springtime as people will guess what you've been up to if Baby Jesus is on your post during the Summer. Christmas cards can be recycled by making clever cut outs, punching a hole in the corner and using the following year as gift tags. If you're into a combination of thrift and time saving, remove all the gift tags from the discarded paper each year and store in a corner of the desk till next Christmas Eve. It saves a half an hour for stressed out Mothers and is a God send. I guarantee you, no one will notice! Hold on to those Jiffy padded envelopes; paste a piece of paper over the address and re-use! The Dutch nation have a name for being thrifty and this is reflected in some of their household gadgets. While living in the Netherlands I came across an ingenious kitchen utensil; a small plastic rod with a flexible half moon shaped attachment on the end. I'd call it a "scraper-outer."  When a jar or bottle is almost empty, this gadget will
scrape it clean.  These are small examples of thriftiness but they give great satisfaction.Who knows, some readers may regard tights, tetra packs and Christmas post in a different light from now on and be converted to the art of thrift!

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Healthy (Prolonged) Breakfast.

A few years ago I decided to switch my breakfast fare for the healthier alternative of fresh mixed fruit. This involves cutting up an apple, adding a mandarin and banana, squeezing an orange and adding the juice to the fruit. A dietician on a radio programme spoke glowingly about Cinnemon powder so a generous sprinkle goes over the apple. Finally, I add a helping of oatmeal and a few spoons of probiotic natural yogurt with  a teaspoon of honey.Then I read an article  by a Scottish nutritionalist who wrote that we should never give our stomachs a shock first thing in the morning with cold drink or food; she advised that we should start our day with a glass of warm water.This duly took precedence and is handy for swallowing the vitamin tablets and cod liver oil;  (think of lubricating those hip and knee joints!)   The benefits  of  a clove of  garlic and some  fresh  ginger  are well documented for boosting the immune system so the chopping board then made its' appearance each morning.Chop it up, mix it in with a spoon of yogurt, then down the hatch! A friend mentioned the benefits of two spoons of cider vinegar in a little warm water and I lined this up before the garlic and ginger. In the Health Shop I heard about the increasing popularity of a variety of seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and hemp which had to be ground down for better absorption.Thankfully, one can now buy this ground and mixed, so a few spoons are added to the fruit.Then there's the Lecithin granules for keeping the cholesterol levels at bay; a few spoons will suffice. Our son was home for Christmas and remarked that my "breakfast routine" was taking considerably longer than on his previous visit. Now here's the dilemma; will I persevere or go back to the tea and toast?

Friday, 30 December 2011

Midnight Mass at 21.00!

I'm an aspiring writer but undisciplined when it comes to sitting down every day and writing a few pages. My son and daughter suggested a "blog page" and yesterday my daughter Joanna set this up for me! Today, I was reflecting on the Christmas days; our son Paul and Chinese daughter-in-law Li Li traveled over from Scotland to join us for the festive days. On Christmas Eve I told the family I was attending Midnight Mass (at 21.00) and asked if anyone wanted to join me. Li Li thought it would be nice to go along for the atmosphere and see what it was all about and Joanna decided to join us. It was indeed a lovely service with the choir, candles and a tastefully decorated crib near the altar. After mass, I related the Bethlehem story to Li Li and also mentioned the "immaculate conception." and that's where the trouble started; the more I verbalised the account, the stranger the story sounded! Something that was a "given" for me since childhood sounded daft when I tried to explain it! I then switched to a quick summary of the 10 commandments saying they were guidelines in life and left it at that.Quick introduction to Christianity! Back home, I mentioned the above phenomenon to my son and he replied that he thought it was a daft story when he was seven years old! I'm not ready for the big debate; my  beliefs are like a warm old cosy coat which I'm not going to give away to the charity shop. Not yet anyway.                              

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Hi all just testing out my new blog here. Stay tuned for some of my musings to come!