Entries in Ireland (6)

Friday
Mar172017

How to make an Irish Hot Whiskey

Happy St Patrick's Day my lovelies.  May you have a day filled with blessings and laughter.

The rain is battering my window and the green is glimpsed through the mists of grey.  I've come in from walking the dogs and feeling a bit like a drowned rat.

To warm my chilled bones a hot whiskey is the ticket.  

This is a drink of few ingredients and one that doesn't need fussing.

Most important is the whiskey I love Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.  This Irish whiskey is 100% barley and made in a copper pot still.

It has a lovely honey flavour with a burst of ginger and butterscotch, there are hints of toasted oat.  It is smooth.  A result of being tripled distilled and matured in charred bourbon barrels.  Writerṣ Tears” is a old style Irish Pot still Whiskey, with its vatting of Single Malt and Single Pot Still whiskeys, it is distilled from 60% malt and 40% pot still.

Years of making hot whiskey's for customers means I know every trick in the book.  The secret is to warm the glass before adding the whiskey.  Put a teaspoon into a glass and fill with water that is just off the boil.  Meanwhile stud a lemon with cloves. Being careful not to burn fingers, disgard the water from the glass, add the whiskey, clove studded lemon and add a good three fingers of Whiskey to the glass, fill with hot water, stirring  to it swirls add a teaspoon of honey - or brown sugar.  Stir until the sugar is disolved.  Wrap a napkin around the glass so as not to burn your fingers and drink with your toes up in front of a roaring fire.

 

Happy St Patrick's Day!

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Monday
Dec152014

q&a – photographer, writer and artist James A. Truett

 

It is with great pleasure I welcome photographer, writer and artist James A. Truett to the Salt and Sparkle q&a. James and I met via Twitter when his moving photographs come up on my timeline.  We got chatting and connected.  

James is a visionary who's work is very powerful.  I especially love the way he captues the beauty of Ireland.  Each time I view his images I feel so honoured to be born in Ireland.  His work makes me draw breath and stop for a moment when I see it.  I just know you will love it too.

He grew up in Alaska, and starting working as a photographer and journalist at 14, within five years his work had been published in every major newspaper in the world. James has lived all over the world and currently resides in County Clare, Ireland, where he is inspired by the landscape and sky.

James has written a two volume beautiful book of photographs and essays, "Mystical Moods of Ireland: Enchanted Celtic Skies," which is available from Amazon or his website, these books show the ever-changing moods of the skies of Ireland, his images are also available to buy, and they will make memorable presents. You can connect with him like I did via Twitter or Facebook.

 

Who are you, what’s it like being you …

I'm an artist at heart, highly empathic. I've lived a very unusual life, blessed with being able to travel a lot and live in different places and in different cultures. 

 

Where are you from, where are you based …

I was born and raised in a small village in Interior Alaska. I've since lived in Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, Mexico and now County Clare, Ireland.

Talk about your work …

I'm a writer and photographer... I love to share words and images of the beauty all around us – especially the beauty in nature. I guess that comes from growing up in the one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of the world. I just published a two-volume set of photographic essays entitled “Mystical Moods of Ireland: Enchanted Celtic Skies” which capture the incredibly dramatic moods of the Irish skies. 


What are your future plans ...

I'm looking forward to exploring more of the world and sharing my experiences and visions through my work.  


How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...

Inspiration – like beauty – is all around us all the time, but I'm often inspired by combinations of words and images, the works of great thinkers and amazing artists. Visionaries in all walks of life inspire me.

 


Describe your space ...

I'm very sensitive to my surroundings, so my living space and work environment are particularly important. My home is on a hillside overlooking the Shannon River Valley, so I have a front-row seat for some of the greatest sunrises I've ever witnessed. When I'm not travelling or out photographing, I do most of my work beside the  fireplace in my office, which looks out onto the Irish countryside. Best of all, it's just up the road from my great grandparents' farm, so  not only do I get to live in spectacular natural surroundings... I'm in the land of my ancestors.


How are you feeling today ... 

I'm hopeful... hopeful about everything, but especially hopeful people will wake up and really see and experience the beauty around them, instead of being caught up in the negative spins of daily news reports.


A non-negotiable in your life is …

Kindness, compassion and gratitude. There always is time and energy to be kind, and there ALWAYS is something to appreciate, even in dark times.



Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. We need problems because we need their gifts.” From Illusions by Richard Bach – my favourite book of all time. Wise words.


Your work life philosophy is …

Always do something you enjoy, especially things that touch other people in a deeply positive and soulful way.

 

What is your favourite smell ...

I love the aroma of a turf fire, and when it's too warm for the fireplace, I like to burn incense, especially Frankincense.


Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...

I love classical music – especially Baroque. I spent my early youth as a classically trained violinist before I became a journalist and photographer. My favourite mix: Bach, Vivaldi... with a dose of classic rock...


Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

Since moving to Ireland six years ago, I've taken a liking to Bacon and Cabbage, but my favourite “comfort” meal is a little bit of chicken with carrots and broccoli on a bed of rice. Simple.



Three things or products that have changed your life...

Like most people in my profession, digital cameras, computers and the Internet have revolutionized the media... It's so exciting to be able to live and work anywhere there's a connection. Before I moved to Ireland, I was traveling in Central America exploring ancient Mayan ruins, staying in the jungles of El Salvador and Honduras... with an Internet connection! It was amazing.


How do you relax ...

I love to escape with a good Sci-fi movie.


What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ...

I love to share adventures with my son, Alberto, who was born and lives in Mexico. He's becoming quite the world traveller, and I love seeing his reactions to new places. Being able to keep in close contact, either via video chat or text, means a lot.


What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...

I'm fascinated with everything related to ancient cultures, so my 'bucket' list includes: Machu Picchu in Peru, the pyramids in Egypt, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, the Ajanta Caves in India... plus I want to take my son to Tibet. That's always been his dream.


What do you most value in your friends ...

Sincerity, caring, open to adventure... “out of the box” thinkers.

What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ...

I'm a fan of Wayne Dyer's books. They are very grounding, and always manage to tweak my attitude in the right direction. My favourite words? “Live, Love, Laugh.”


Share some words of wisdom ...

When you're feeling down or confused, go take a walk in nature... a walk in a forest or a garden is the best medicine.

James it was an honour to talk with you, thank you for joining us.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Friday
Aug152014

Sláinte its Friday, time for a Dingle Vodka Lemon Drop 

Sláinte its Friday! Cocktail time.  Are you excited, because I am.  Today we are delighted to share with you a recipe that has got our tastebuds popping, using a sublime Vodka from a place called Dingle on the south west coast of Ireland.  

Dingle Distillery Pot Still Vodka

Doesn't the word Dingle, just make you smile.

Say it aloud for a moment.

DINGLE.

Now add Pot Stilled vodka, and think Friday cocktail, and I know for sure your smile has just got bigger.

Sláinte!

Dingle Distillery is an artisan distillery launched in 2012, one of five in Ireland, situated in the old Fitzgerald saw mill the copper stills and casks are beginningage the spirit which will in turn become Dingle whiskey.  

The spirit needs to be aged for at least three years to be called whiskey, so while the Dingle spirit is aging, the distillery have produced bottles of both Dingle Vodka and Gin.  

Vodka is a neutral spirit which can be distilled from virtually anything that ferments including potatoes. However, the very best vodkas start their lives as a grain - like the Spring Wheat used to make Dingle Vodka.  

'Whiskey is in the waiting' and the quality of water is intergal to the end product.  Dingle Vodka benefits from using the same water as its whiskey.  Water which has filtered through the beautiful Dingle Mountains for hundreds of years before being pumped up from nearly 300 feet below ground.

Created in a single copper pot still, Dingle Vodka is the purest vodka I have ever tasted.  I would go so far as to say it is one of the very best sipped by Salt and Sparkle.

It has a clarity and internal smooth energy that is not found easily.  

Clear, clean and sweet Dingle Vodka has a soft gentle flavour, that is creamy on the palate, with just an aroma of vanilla.

Dingle Distillery Vodka has a freshness that makes it very enjoyable to drink without ice or mixers.  The vodka however, should have been in the freezer preferably overnight to allow it to become really really cold.

Good cocktails, just like good food, always begin life as superb ingredients.  And, the clean fresh flavours of Dingle Vodka, heavenly match with lemonzest and lemonsugar syrup.

Lemondrops are simple and sublime, are favourite type of food and drinks.   Make lemon sugar by mixing lemon zest and superfine caster sugar, then add in equal measure to lemon juice, and stir untill dissolved. The sweet zesty scent, will transport you towards heaven while you do so.

Squeeze a lot of lemons, I typically go for two per drink, add the zest to the bottom of a pitcher or glass, and cover with ice, then stir in the vodka and lemon sugar syrup.  Serve immediately with straws if the fancy takes.

Dingle Vodka Lemon Drop Recipe mixes four large cocktails

Ingredients

  • 3 cups ice cold vodka
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • Zest of eight lemons
  • Ice

 

Method

 

  1. Make lemon sugar by mixing lemon zest and sugar
  2. Add the lemon juice to the sugar and stir to dissolve
  3. In a pitcher or mixing glass stir the vodka, lemonjuice sugar and ice
  4. Add either lemon slices or zest to the bottom of tall glasses, fill the glass with ice then pour over the cocktail.

 


That's it for now ...

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

The Dingle Whiskey Distillery, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland

 +353 86 829 9944

 

Friday
Apr272012

40 shades of Green

 

 

On Friday's I just love hooking up with Darcy's P52 -this week's theme was green.  Green my national colour and the one thing all visitors remark on when they visit Ireland.

'Nicky, I just can't believe how green it is here.  It is truly amazing.'

Johnny Cash told us in his popular song that Ireland has 40 shades of green.  I think there are so many more shades in my beautiful country.  Ireland - the Emerald Isle.  When I travel, I miss the green of my homecountry, I miss its peace, and sweet scent. 

When Ireland and the UK, are looked at from space, astronauts have remarked on how vibrant the green of the island is.  Even on the dullest days, when light is flat, rain threatens or pours from the heavens, the brilliant green of the grass jumps out and brings a smile.

The colour green has many meanings, these include - praise, eternal life, vigor, prosperity, mercy, restoration, health, healing, new beginning, freshness, God's holy seed, harvest, sowing and reaping, immortality, fresh oil, new life, joy in hope.

 What does green say to you - how does it make you feel as a colour?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Tuesday
Mar132012

Donegal - Sweet Shot Tuesday

 

 

Tonight I am speaking live Ireland to California, in an interview with Lem - a Professor of Identity - where we will talk about identity in an interview for one of his classes.  These photographs that I have selected today are of one of my favourite counties in Ireland - Donegal - the cliffs are Slieve League the highest sea cliffs in Europe.  There is something about Donegal, that grounds me, when I am there, I feel a strong connection to the land - its love, its pain, its sorrow.  Is there a place that gives you that sort of identity?

Tuesday means linking up with Darcy and Sweet Shot Tuesday - join us?

Darcy asked what we are doing for St Patrick's Day - well one thing I know for sure is that we won't be eating corned beef and cabbage!  We will be watching Ireland beat England in the last match of the six nations - and we will sing some Irish Songs.  This is one of my favourites.

That's it for now...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Wednesday
Jan042012

Thoughts of Summer 2011

July

The month kicked off with a great 4th July Party at my friend's The Hallidays.  I made these sprinkle topped pretzels to bring with me.  Which could be adapted with different coloured sprinkles to be made at any time of year.  The party was just perfect.  Laughter and dancing, great food, and super conversation.  And, singing, oh the singing, of wonderful Irish and American folk songs.  We sang around a camp fire to the early hours of the morning.  I gave some renditions of Janice Joplin's 'Oh Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes..." and Christy Moore's "Ride On".

I spent a lot of the month traveling right across Eastern Coast of Northern Ireland for work, and after a particularly gruelling day, I took some time to shower my head, and walk along this beach - Whitepark Bay - just as the sun was setting, and I caught this image.

Northern Ireland is a country that is coming out of years of darkness, and there is great hope for the future, but how deeply ingrained some of the hatred is, still has the power to shock me.  At a lunch with an older man, a senior statesman, with significant power in the Ulster Scots movement, I was told ...

"Nicky, I really didn't think I would like you because of your surname and who you are.  But you are a good girl.  Your a good girl."

For me this was possibly one of the saddest things someone had said to me all year.  They judged me on my surname, automatically seeing my name as my religion and my faith.  They decided not to like me because of my name, and after chatting with me, and deciding I was okay.  They tried to give me a badge of honour, by saying the ever so patronising, 'your a good girl.'  It took all my strength not to slap that man across the face, for his sectarian comment.  

As a child growing up in a country that was shrouded in an astmosphere of fear, and hate, judgement and killing, sectarianism and bombs, there was a lot of darkness, and people were judged on everything from how close their eyebrows were together, to their names, to the football shirts or school uniforms they wear.  

Whilst there isn't the horror of the daily bombings happening at the moment, thank the Lord, and we live with something called peace, there is a darkness in this country, where people are still judged and hated for all the things that I have just mentioned.  People are still judged because of their religion or preceived religion, and it makes me sad, and angry.  To all of those who still chose to say stuck in a mindset of sectarianism, I say, in the words of John and Yoko - GIVE PEACE A CHANCE - stop judging people on their names, on how they look etc etc etc.  

My sister Naomi, had gone on an exchange programme to Arizona for most of July.  How I missed her.  There were tears at the airport when I picked her up.  She brought the beautiful Lara Ford back with her to Ireland, and we had a wonderful time getting to know her, learning about her culture and religion (she is a Mormon), discovering a language that joins us, and also divides us.  It was simply fantastic to learn about the USA from her, and to spent time just hanging out.  She is a wonderful girl, who we were blessed to get to know, and I can't wait to see her again.

Naomi & Lara share the same birthday.  I made them some really special cakes.  One a Red Velvet and the other an Irish Version of a Boston Mud Pie.  Here are some pics of them with their cakes and hanging out in Ireland.

Naomi & Lara with their cakes

Tyler & the girls on their birthday

Naomi & Lara on their way to Ballygally Castle for a wedding

Naomi & Lara at the Armoy Road Races

 

Upside down at Barry's in Portrush

The girls in Ballycastle

The Girls & a Bog Body

The Girls in Irish Tweed Caps

The Girls at Newgrange

Visiting The Megalithic Passage Tombs of Newgrange & Knowth, was a highlight of my year.  I have wanted to visit these sites since I drove up and down past them on my weekly commute to Dublin.  It was very special to visit sites that are older than the pyramids at Giza, and Stonehenge.  What absolutely amazed Naomi, Lara and I, was when the guide told us, that the stone paintings, shared similar symbols to those found in Native American stone art in the USA.  That representations of the circular symbols seen in the picture between the girls above, was found in an almost exact replica in America.  These ancient peoples who didn't have our means of travel or connection, still were in tune with each other.  Now that really blows my mind.

A quiet peace blew on the wind, the day we were there.  When we went inside the passage tomb, and saw the recreation of the Winter Solistice beam of light, I felt goosebumps.  The ancient Irish people who built and used these tools were more sophisticated that we will ever know, and to stand where they stood, knowing so little about them, except what archaeology can show us was thrilling.  My mind went into overdrive, imaging them planning these sites.  Did they follow a process of creation in their mind, like I do, when I start to write or photograph?  How did they see in their heads before they begin to work?  Here are some of the photographs that I took.

Knowth

Knowth

Check out the ancient face to the right on the stone

Newgrange

 

August


Just before the tears at the airport, and that sense of someone being missing in our home when Lara left - Naomi, Sarah, Linda & I hung out - on a Saturday that was full of laughter and ice cream.

My friend Helga signed me up for a sailing course at Ballyholme Yacht Club in August, which reignited my love for the water.  I had always wanted to do a sailing course, and lots of things stopped me - money, time, not knowing the right people - but now I am the proud holder of RYA Dinghy Sailing Levels 1 & 2, and I can't wait to get back on the water to take part in more courses, and become a qualified sailor.

This course taught me about stepping out of my comfort zone, and taking part in something that I have always wanted to do.  Yes, I capsized, yes I lost my balance, yes the sea was cold, yes the boat felt to small for my 6" height.  But none of that really seemed to matter, I was doing something that I had always wanted to do, and the feeling that that brought was nothing short of marvellous.  In a small way it was the beginning of living my dream to become an ocean sailor, a member of crew who knows their way about a yacht, and sails across the world.

Something really dark also happened this month, something that still has the power to send shivers of horror down my spine.  At a house party, I got chatting to a guy who had just returned from his gap year.  We were sitting on large cushions on the floor with a group of people.  This guy was about to start work in some highflying financial style career, I can't remember his name, but I was enjoying talking to him.  We were interupted by the guy's sister who said, 

"Nicky, I have something to tell you, now don't judge me, but we are in a safe environment, and my little brother is here.  I don't want anything to happen to him, when he starts work in the big city, and you and I both know what the party scene can be like.  So I have decided that in this safe house party environment I am going to introduce my brother to cocaine.  Then at least I can be rest assured that he isn't trying it somewhere dangerous.  He will have had his first trip with me, it's like a bonding and safe fun thing to do together.  At least I know he won't try it first on his own, in a dangerous situation."

My eyes went from her to her brother, in a look of complete shock, I couldn't quite believe, what I was hearing, what was being said to me.  

'Your not seriously, about to do this?" I said.

"Don't judge me Nicky, this is okay, I am looking out for my baby brother, and making sure he is safe."

The next moment this wave of darkness seemed to overtake the room, a heavy swirl of forbordance.  To my right the guy was gabbling away in my ear, and telling me it was all fine.  I looked to my left, and his sister was cutting the coke.  

I stood up. I refused to be party to this.

'Guys, this is not okay, I am not judging you, but this is not okay, this is not safe.  You have no idea where that gear came from, you don't know your dealer.  This is not okay."  My mind was racing, I had to get out of that room.

Looking at the brother, I said, "If you go a head with this, it will be the most foolish thing you have ever done."

"Guys, this is your life, your choice, no one can make it to you, but I won't be party to you taking this gear, I make the choice not to be a part of your choices. so I am leaving."

And, with that I walked out.  It has taken me months to even be able to write this down, and when I think about it, I tremble with anger.   If people want to take drugs, that is their decision, it is a free world, and if asked my opinion I would give it, but we each are responsible for the choices that we make, and we cannot make someone do something they don't want to do.  But to introduce your brother to drugs, and not just a cigarette or a glass of booze, but hard class A drugs.  That is just opening the door to death. 

I turned away.  Sometimes we do have to make the decision to turn away, it's not a judgement on what others are doing, or saying, but it's a choice we make to protect ourselves, because what is happening around us is 'not okay!".  

What did you turn away from in 2011?

To be continued 

That's it for now...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable