One of my boys remarked to me yesterday "Mammy didn't we get away lightly with the cold this winter". Someone has obviously been listening well to Granddad but of course it is true.  Spring is only around the corner but for the past few weeks little flowers have been emerging from the ground and buds have started to show on trees and plants. Such growth is unusually so early in the year but isn't it so lovely when some colour is reintroduced into the countryside.

Even though the weather is mild there are still many complaining of a cold or if terribly unlucky a flu. Quite often these symptoms don't warrant any doctors intervention but non the less that miserable feeling of a blocked nose, stuffy head and aching bones will often require some home remedies to aid a speedy recovery. When I was young if I ever complained of a sniffle my mother would juice lemons and oranges, add water and simmer with the citrus peels for a couple of minutes. This drink was always fairly bitter so a spoonful of sugar or a squeeze of honey would sort that out. My remedy is based on this drink and even though it won't get rid of your cold it will help to improve some of the symptoms. I have blogged about my home remedy before but many have told me that they have found it useful, so I thought I would share it again with a slightly updated recipe.

Lemons are among a group of super foods and are one of the best foods for boosting the immune system and balancing the body's acid and alkali pH. Like oranges they are high in Vitamin C, which is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps to fight off infections and helps the body to repair cells at times of sickness. It has also been well documented that honey and ginger help the immune system and are recommended for times when you are feeling a little run down. I have plenty of mint growing in the garden and some has actually survived the cold weather so I tend to use it for herbal teas. A few sprigs make a wonderful addition to this drink as mint has the ability to sooth the digestive tract and subsequently ease tummy aches. When you are sick it is always important to keep hydrated so this drink makes the perfect tonic!

Cold Home Remedy

Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp honey
1inch knob Ginger, peeled and chopped
4 mint leaves (optional)

1. Juice the orange and lemon into a pint glass.
2. Add the ginger, honey and mint. Top up with boiling water.
3. Allow to sit for a 10 minutes then pass through a sieve for a smooth drink.
4. Taste and add more honey, if required.

I love sourcing different bits & pieces as props for my photos. This Nurses Medical Dictionary is very special to me as it was my mothers. Whenever there was some new ailment in the house she would refer to this little book. My Dad kindly gave me the lone of it for this photo.

Thinking of doing something a little different in the coming week? Well there is an event taking place in Dublin on Tuesday 31st January that I thought may be of interest to some of you wine lovers. It promises to be a very interesting evening where you get the opportunity to learn about wines from two of the biggest names in the business. While you are tasting your wines you will also be treated to delicious canapés. I'm sorry to say that I won't be able to attend the evening but if you would like to get your hands on some free tickets have a read of this press release. 

Join Branoctt Estate Winemaker Jamie Marfell For A Free Wine Tasting Masterclass

Brancott Estate Winemaker, Jamie Marfell will host a Free wine tasting masterclass in the relaxed surroundings of Odessa Club, Dublin on Tuesday 31st January. Jamie is visiting Ireland to attend this year’s New Zealand Wine Fair on behalf of the prestigious wine brand, considered the benchmark of New Zealand varietal Sauvignon Blanc.

Jamie is an expert on Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wine and is passionate about the brand, continually looking to hone and develop new Sauvignon Blanc styles. Jamie will offer 30 guests his expert tips on wine as well as a unique insight into wine making in the Marlborough region having grown up on a farm overlooking the BrancottValley and working for the brand for over 20 years.

On the evening Jamie will be joined by Irish wine expert Jean Smullen who will help him to guide the audience through the wine tasting process. Guests will be treated to a selection of delicious canapés and will have the opportunity to try five wines from the Brancott range; three from the classic range (Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Brancott Estate Pinot Grigio and Brancott Estate Pinot Noir), one wine from the Letter Series Range, Letter Series B and one of the newest varietals to the range, the sparkling Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc Brut NV.


The Brancott Estate wine tasting masterclass hosted by Brancott Estate winemaker Jamie Marfell and Irish wine expert Jean Smullen takes place in Odessa Club on Tuesday 31st January at 7.00pm. Tickets are free and guests can register for spaces by emailing with their name, date of birth, contact details and address or they can find out more information through the Brancott Estate Facebook fan page .Tickets are allocated on a lottery basis and guests will be notified of attendance by Friday 27th January.
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I love early mornings, there is a day ahead that can hold so many possibilities. Tiarnán & Fionn share a bedroom, which is right beside my room. Mornings usually start with one wakening the other and a little chit-chat ensues about plans for their day ahead. It's always a lovely start to the day earwigging on their whisperings. The innocent banter and the elaborate scenarios they conjure up, while still tucked up tightly under their duvets, always makes me smile.  
Fionn age 4 & Tiarnán age 6 with Lulu the dog.
Sometimes their plans aren't too unrealistic and yesterday morning their thoughts were focused on baking, with the main ingredient of choice being chocolate. After breakfast they flicked through some cookbooks, for inspiration, before deciding on making some buns. They both love the occasional slice of bread with Nutella so what better to incorporate into their icing than a few spoonfuls of this sweet chocolate spread. They were delighted with how they turned out and straight after lunch they enjoyed one with a big mug of hot chocolate. However it wasn't long before they had their wellies back on and a pirate adventure was under-way in the back garden. They are busy bees that are so full of energy and always on the go. Watching their fun and games make me very grateful to have such healthy young men.

Nutella Cupcakes 


100g softened butter

50g cream cheese {Philadelphia}
300g icing sugar, sieved
100g Nutella
1 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved

To decorate
Sweets/chocolate of choice or
Roasted hazelnuts, chopped 

1. Place the softened butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and blend well.
2. Slowly add the icing sugar and continue to blend. Add the nutella and cocoa powder, blend until nice and fluffy.
3. Put in the fridge for 15mins.

4Put a large spoonful of icing on top of each bun and spread evenly.
5. Top with some sweets or chopped roasted hazelnuts.

Jack is always a great help in the kitchen.
On tasting the icing it was declared not 'chocolatey' enough so a spoonful of cocoa was added!
I think all children love to get creative with how they top their buns.
If the boys are doing something then Millie has to get stuck in too!
Fionn decorates with little icing but lots of sweets- just the way he likes them!
Job well done!
Millie can't wait for the taste test.

Until Jack mentioned it to me yesterday, I had completely forgot that my blog would of celebrated it's 2nd birthday at the beginning of this week. A lot has happened in the past two years. I love to write and to take photos but for most of my time I'm a stay at home mam to four, so this is a wonderful hobby for me. I've had many amazing experiences and opportunities in the past couple of years, which all really came from blogging. Thanks for coming on this journey with me and as always I'm grateful for your feedback through comments, e-mails and tweets.

I don't often use jars of sauces for cooking, as quite often they aren't as flavoursome as I would like. I have also found it to be cheaper to have the ingredients for basic sauces in the press and then throw one together when needed. However sometimes a product comes along that I like to have stocked in my press which makes for a speedy dinner. I recently tried two of  Georgia Smokehouse Foods Ltd sauces- the No Cry Babies Bar BQ Sauce and the Dark, Sweet & Smokey Bar BQ Sauce and I really enjoyed them both. The No Cry Babies Bar BQ Sauce is a spicy sauce that works perfectly as a marinade for meats. I tried it with some strips of beef and loved the level of spice without being too spicy. Even the children enjoyed it! On another occasion I mixed a spoonful of the sauce with some mayonnaise and served it as a spicy dip to accompany a chicken wrap which was very tasty.

My favourite of the two sauces was the Dark, Sweet & Smokey Bar BQ Sauce. I marinaded some chicken fillets over night in the sauce and then griddled it the next day. The sauce is fairly thick so half a jar with a little added water was sufficient sauce to cover four chicken fillets. Normally with a typical bbq flavoured sauce the smokey flavour is artificial and the level of sweetness is overpowering. This is the first bought bbq sauce that I have really liked. It's smokey flavour tastes natural which probably comes from the fact that it is produced using tradition methods.
  Georgia Smokehouse Foods, specialise in authentic Southern Style Bar BQ sauces and are based in Birr Co. Offaly. You can check out their Facebook page for more details. I'm sure you'll be seeing these sauces in a supermarkets near you very soon!

When one thinks of Christmas leftovers turkey and ham naturally springs to mind, but I have found that the ever popular tins of chocolates can often still be found in our press well into the new year. As a child the first sight of these in a shop was a sure indication that Christmas was approaching and the unveiling of this tin of goodies on Christmas Eve always guaranteed excitement in the house. Somehow I'm actually a little disappointed that these boxes of chocolates and tins of biscuits are now available to buy year round. What use to be a seasonal luxury has now become a very affordable treat, that can can be bought any time of the year. During the festive season there are always a few open tins of chocs lurking around everyones' house. I know most will enjoy a few with a cuppa but I find them very handy to use in my baking. I often chop them up and use them as a topping for a chocolate cake or sometimes add them into a chocolate biscuit mix to create a rocky road, of sorts. In this recipe I am using my basic brownie mixture and adding the chunks of sweets just before baking. I used a combination of Mars Celebrations sweets, which worked out really nicely as each little square of brownie had it's own unique flavour.

Celebration Brownies

125g (4.5oz)dark chocolate,70% cocoa, in chunks
150g (5oz)butter
3 large eggs
300g (11oz)caster sugar
100g (4oz)self raising flour
125g (5oz)celebration sweets, chopped

1.Preheat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390f/gas mark 6.
2.Grease a 20x20 baking tin with butter and cut a piece of baking parchment to fit the bottom.
3.Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water.
4.While melting mix the eggs and sugar in a mixer.
5. Fold in the flour. Add the butter/chocolate mix.
5.Fold together, be careful not to overmix. Stir in the chopped chocolates.
6.Pour into the cake tin and cook for  about 30 minutes They should have a crust on but still be a bit wobbly.
7.Cool and cut into squares, dust with some icing sugar.

This recipe was featured in Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Easy Parenting.