Moving into a new neighbourhood

At this strange time when it feels like everyone has moved into a new city and is still trying to figure their way around, it turns out that what is so far keeping us sane and healthy are the things your mother used to tell you to do:

Eat well —

Our weekly organic fruit and veg delivery continues, along with the creative endeavours at using up kale (we’re good at that now), parsnips, turnips, potatoes, apples…

Turnips for roasting.

A few things we’ve tried: parsnip chips (fail: though the three coins that weren’t little crispy black dots were tasty — temperature and time way too high in recipe); roasted turnip hummus (very yummy, once we added a bit of extra seasoning); roasted cauliflower (also tasty, recipe here). The apples have become apple cake, apple crumble, added into coleslaw and quesadillas, onto granola and grated into porridge.

Through any normal winter we immune-boost with extra vitamin C, lots of fresh, bright and leafy things, our home brew of lemon, ginger + that helps keep colds and other ailments away and tea tree oil and lavender rubbed onto chests, throats, sinuses.

Make a List — 

C22FD94C-4386-472F-948D-1E4D356D8805Not necessarily motherly advice, lists help me get things done and keep my head clear. I’m keeping up with my daily/weekly/completely aspirational ones but we’ve added a list of things we each hope to learn or do while we’re home more. Alongside that is a list of tasks that complete the ‘house repairs’ notation on the first list. One of our number is less likely than the others to be self-motivated so he is on orders to write a list each night for the next day. Unfortunately for him if he doesn’t do it, I get to.

On my list:

  • painting furniture. I’d started this last month, but I want to finish it. I’m not painting everything in the house, just some bedroom furniture (and at the same time sorting through cupboards and drawers too).
  • making mayonnaise. I’ve been meaning to for ages, so why not now?
  • cleaning my oven

Get daily exercise and fresh air —

Happily my step count is above and beyond my daily goal. Often on my days at home I struggle to take enough steps, but with making sure I get out every day to do something, it is really helping. Also, I’ve been walking with some of my Downton Abbey neighbours — maintaining a healthy distance of course. My daughter says it seems like everyone has taken up running; she’s feeling the good results of getting out there more.

Along the banks of the Grand Canal.

Before the 2 km limit was imposed we also managed to get out into the beautiful countryside for some longer walks: 10 km on St Patrick’s Day in the Slieve Blooms and about 7 km on part of the Grand Canal Way on Mother’s Day. With a bit of manoeuvring we managed to avoid people. More about those treks later…

Be thankful —

I am so often grateful for our home, how we each have our own space, the bright light and the views out over our neighbourhood, plus a lovely garden front and back — which will hopefully be getting much more attention too (that’s on the list!).

I am very aware that although we are all equally susceptible to this virus, it will not impact all of us equally. I am humbled to be in a place where coping is not too much of a burden.

Other notes:

We’ve had a treasure hunt that got us laughing, racing and finally sharing out the tiniest 03CC4E73-B551-4C57-8FA3-34D773845132pieces of chocolate that were the prize (chocolate went on the shopping list straight away). My brilliant idea of pretending we were on a murder mystery weekend was shot down (also: bludgeoned with a candlestick and lead pipe together, stabbed repeatedly, tied up, tossed out, etc) immediately.

Our main arguments last week involved yoga and granola, proof that the Canadian west coast is indeed embedded in our DNA.

To be honest, I’m finding all the links to virtual museum tours, art and writing projects, social distancing concerts and all that lovely stuff is just a bit much so I’m being pretty selective about my clicks. Here’s two but if you also are overwhelmed with suggestions, skip on down.

I’m listening to Poetry Unbound a podcast from The On Being Project. Twice a week during the season Northern Irish poet Padráig Ó Tuama guides the listener through a poem. If you never read poetry or find you don’t get much of what’s out there, Padráig’s musings help anchor the poem in your experience in a gentle, meditative way. This one is still my favourite: A Poem for What You Learn Alone.

Our family favourite Oliver Jeffers is reading a story Monday-Friday at 6 pm Irish time on Instagram Live with a chat about his ideas, inspirations and artwork. He and his family of four are currently in isolation in an apartment overlooking the Titanic museum in Belfast — sometimes he takes to the balcony to show off that amazing view. You can catch previous stories here.

Zoom and Skype are proving their worth as I am enjoying catching up with my colleagues a few times a week and our Poetry Circle is going virtual to keep us all writing and in touch (no getting away from those deadlines!).

And as a treat, here’s something we did with parsnips that was a success:

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake9C4D89BC-4120-4958-A0C1-8ABD713DFDB0

  • 175g butter
  • 175g brown sugar
  • 50ml maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla or maple flavouring
  • 250g parsnips, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 50g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • zest and juice 1 small orange

For the filling:

  • 125g mascarpone
  • icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp maple flavouring

Heat oven to 180C/350F. Grease 2 x 20cm round cake pans and line the bases with parchment. Melt butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over gentle heat, then cool slightly. Whisk the eggs into this mixture, then stir in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice, followed by the grated parsnip, apple, chopped walnuts, orange zest and juice, and vanilla.

Divide between the tins, then bake for 25-30 mins until the tops spring back when pressed lightly.

Cool the cakes slightly in the tins before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely. Just before serving, mix together the mascarpone and icing sugar. Spread over one cake and sandwich with the other. Another option is to put all the filling in the middle and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Like a pale and interesting sister to a carrot cake, This recipe came to us via our veg box but was originally published on BBC Good Food. I’ve made some changes: less sugar and maple syrup and extra flavouring.

As it is written, it is a cross between Irish and Canadian, with measurements in weight plus the addition of self-raising flour (easy to substitute: just google for quantities) and mixed spice it definitely belongs in Ireland, but the maple flavouring brings it back over the Atlantic. Unfortunately maple flavouring is unavailable here, but it’s not crucial; I just found it gave flavour without adding sweetness.

Mixed spice is a blend that may include allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, coriander, ginger . You could mix up your own blend (again, google) or just add 2 tsp total of some of those spices, or use a pumpkin spice blend.

The icing in original recipe called for maple syrup instead of icing sugar, but I found that quite runny so went with icing sugar. The cake is light and keeps well in a sealed container for a few days — if it lasts that long!


I hope and pray that wherever you are, there is light in your day and colour on your table — and that your lists include something fun.



2 thoughts on “Moving into a new neighbourhood

  1. Ha. Sounds about the same here! I’ve made a headboard and painted it , so last week I painted my dresser and side table the same chalk paint colour. My closets have been dragged out and sorted and tossed! I’m back to baking bread every day. Made pretzels. Super yummy! And walking (almost) every day. Love you

    Liked by 1 person

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