Browsed by
Tag: armagh

How Do You Like Them Apples??

How Do You Like Them Apples??

Ah, Autumn. I feel you nipping at my heels, pushing me towards my winter boots and scarves and coats. I see you in the rust-edged leaves and bushes heavy with blackberries. I see you in the crisp new pages of a notebook, full of anticipation and hope. Being a September babe means I am always ready to embrace Autumn and probably explains my excitement at new stationery but my all-time favourite way to ring in the season is to get home to Armagh pick fresh apples.

Being from Co. Armagh means that I have the fortune of knowing folk who run an orchard and you better believe I make the most of it. The countryside of the orchard county comes to life this time of year. Farmers work tirelessly to fill their bins, sending them off to cideries or local supermarkets. Then there is I, galloping through the corridors of trees like some sort of harvest addict, camera in one hand and a basket almost too heavy to carry in another.

This year I came down to the orchards for the sole purpose of picking Katy apples. In previous years I’ve always made it down in time for picking the Bramleys, the most common apple variety in the county, but I’ve never been in time for Katy apple picking. Usually the Katy apples are ready towards the very end of August or the very beginning of September, about a fortnight before the Bramleys and I’ve always been disappointed to have just missed the timing.

This year I had my personal apple correspondent, Rebecca from A Clothes Horse, who gave me the heads up when the Katy apples were ready. Rebecca married in to the Glass family who have a beautiful orchard just outside Loughgall, a village and area famous for their apples. She let me know they were about to be picked and that I should get my skates on and get down before they were all gone.

By the time I got to the orchard there was only one Katy tree left – these pickers work fast! Rebecca told me the rough location of the last Katy tree so we went on a scavenger hunt to find it. As you can see, the bright red apple is fairly hard to miss! We were in a sea of Bramleys when all of a sudden this biblical tree appeared with apples so red they almost didn’t look real.

After a taste test I could confirm that not only were they real but they were freakin’ delicious. Super crunchy and juicy and not at all poisonous. I picked a few apples, not wanting to hog them all and then proceeded to take as many photos as I could because I didn’t know if I’d ever be this lucky with the season again.

So here you are. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I loved taking them! If you’d like to visit the orchards for yourself then I would definitely recommend getting down to Armagh for the Food & Cider Festival next weekend (19-22nd September). There are loads of events on for the family including orchard tours, cooking class, cider workshops and even a painting masterclass in an orchard too! Visit the event website here for more details.

Happy Autumn friends and let me know if you’ve any ideas on how I can use a basketful of apples – recipes welcome!

The Struggle With Being Present

The Struggle With Being Present

Hello friends! It’s been a while hasn’t it? I so hope that you’ve been enjoying all the amazingness May has brought with her; wildflowers, blossoms, SUNSHINE! My goodness it feels great to be able to swish about in dresses again but not so good for the lazy git in me who hates shaving her legs (I flat out refuse to go above the knee).

While I would use this chance to apologise for my unplanned stint of absenteeism, I am choosing to forego excuses and admit to you that I was just busy living as best I could now that the longer evenings have slipped in and cold afternoon beers are perfectly acceptable. This refusal to apologise ended up being the basis for this post as I began to feel the familiar guilt creeping in when I realised I hadn’t written anything beyond work emails and social media captions in weeks.

Truth be told I am consciously trying to enjoy the perks of Spring with no strings attached. This might sound ludicrous to some people but for those of us who are on the never-ending hamster wheel of social media the struggle to keep up is very real. There’s a running joke amongst many that if you didn’t put it in on Instagram then it didn’t happen which is a frightening truth I have come to see in myself.

A few weekends ago Andrew and I took a stroll to a local woodland to see how the bluebells were coming up. I had taken the camera to snap a few photos and asked Andrew (the ever-patient Insta partner) to take a few portraits of me while I was there. Now this is nothing new for either of us but Andrew nervously commented how he would like to go somewhere just once without the need to document it and felt that I wasn’t being present when we were exploring these places together because of my addictive need to get as many beautiful photos as possible.

I might have looked hurt for a second but the truth was he was right. I’m not sure if this is because of social media or because I truly love photography but it is an obsession I am becoming more and more aware of. I have definitely been that friend at dinner who takes a quick video or photo of the food before we eat and I have definitely visited a place based on how Insta-worthy it is. And while I know there is no real harm in this (and I am certainly not alone!), I am only recently seeing how it’s beginning to affect my own ability to be present especially when I am with the people I love.

Doing it for the ‘gram is not something I want to be known for. I recently read a piece by Mel Wiggins recently where she spoke about adding value and being more conscious about what we decide to share with the world be it through blogging or social media and it made me think about why I started blogging in the first place. I have always wanted to use this blog as a way to make a connection with someone else, share my thoughts and discover places that you or I didn’t know about. However I also want to keep that separate from my own wee moments that I have to myself or with those close to me. I don’t want to interrupt that time just because I see an ivy wall and think “OMG I HAVE TO GET A PHOTO HERE!” because does it actually matter if I keep something for myself?

I want the people I love to get all of me when I’m with them, not a half-present scroller who is double checking if she got a decent photo or replying to comments on her latest post. I also want you guys, the folks who I love to share stories with, to see the real genuine side of my life. While it might be hard to believe, I actually do love to visit the apple blossoms when I go to visit my family in Armagh and I live for exploring new places on my weekends. However I will be making a conscious effort to not put pressure on my spare time to produce pleasing content proving I did something worthwhile with my time because we all deserve time to just be, right??

Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to share photos and words from places I want you to see and I think are beautiful because that brings me immense joy! Sitting here writing and editing cross-legged on the sofa after a day of work (with jeans unzipped naturally) makes me stupidly happy because I love nothing more than being honest whether it be through my writing and photography. I also want to be able to forgive myself for the moments of supposed weakness when I see something beautiful and want to capture it. There is absolutely no shame in doing something that makes us happy so there should be no shame when we want to record or share it but for me the key is creating those boundaries where I don’t feel like I’m living my life through a screen.

With that in mind and in the spirit of Mental Health week I have decided to set myself a few boundaries in the hope it might help me become a more present person but also become more relaxed and focused. In case you’re feeling the same I’ve decided to share them but please let me know if you have any of your own thoughts that you’d like to share too!

Allocate Time for Social Media

For a while I was sharing on IG stories, Instagram and Facebook multiple times throughout the day but now I allocate a short time in the evening after dinner to do all of this. It means I’m not having to constantly check my phone for replies or comments and I’m spending a lot less time on my phone because of it.

Leaving My Phone Behind

I’ve been doing this recently when I go for a big walk or get out in nature. I’ll take my camera just in case but just not having my phone in my pocket removes the temptation to check for updates and allows me to feel so much more present.

Posting Less

For a while there I was completely guilty for buying in to the social media climb. I really wanted to see my numbers grow which convinced me that I had to be present on social media throughout the day and post a photo at least once. This pressure meant I was posting photos and content that felt rushed and irrelevant which meant that my following weren’t really seeing me. At the end of the day, an authentic following is one who you engages with you naturally and who continue to support you no matter how often you post. This is a lesson I am so glad to have learned and now I’ll only post a few times a week when I have the time.

Using Apps

I downloaded the Forest app to help gain a bit of willpower in my moments of weakness. The app allows you to plant a seed and the longer you manage to leave your phone the seed will grow in to a tree. It’s been a great tool for me because I’m a visual person who needs to see the reward so I’ll be keeping it up (especially in the office!).

Local Favourites: Armagh

Local Favourites: Armagh

It’s fair to say we aren’t known for our gratitude here in Ireland. We’re surrounded by towns and and villages so full of charm but the majority of us rarely appreciate them since it’s what we’ve either grown up with or used to. Cobbled streets and buildings older than Australia are just on our doorstep, so why not shine a light on them? That’s why I’ve started this new Local Favourites series to try an encourage a little love for these gems in our own backyard.

I may live in Belfast but I’m an Armagh girl born and bred so I’ve chosen my fair Cathedral City as the first in this new series. Although the town is technically a city, the population is only around 15,000 so it’s only wee. There was definitely a small-town vibe growing up here; I knew most people when I walked through the streets and I always felt incredibly safe even when I was a teenager running amok. Nowadays I feel a little more like an outsider after living away for so long but I think this gives me a fresh perspective and allows me to see the beauty of the town I grew up in.

Here are a few things I love most about my hometown…

Architecture

Armagh is built on seven hills which can be hard on the old thighs but can give you wonderful views across the city and it’s countryside. The most notable buildings are of course the two cathedrals which dominate the Armagh skyline like two aul men. Both cathedrals are named after St. Patrick (he was a popular man in these parts) however the older cathedral belongs to the Church of Ireland denomination and the younger is Roman Catholic. I adore both of these buildings for different reasons. The older dates back to 445 AD and has withstood monumental changes in Irish history – it even has a High King of Ireland buried in it’s grounds! The younger cathedral dates back to the 19th century and is also special because my own family history is tied to it. My parents were married here, I was christened here, made my first Communion and Confirmation here and I said goodbye to my sister all in the same colossal space. It’s gothic walls contain so many local memories within them and the intricate ceilings have my jaw hanging open every time.

img_6410.jpg

St. Patrick’s Cathdedral (The Older)

img_6423.jpg

0d2f7150-9c62-407a-9e26-4243c012c4ff.jpg

St. Patrick’s Cathedral (The Younger)

7e04281c-7abb-439c-9ca0-3f06c396bfc5.jpg

 

68cef67c-be89-4a9d-b416-85c2f702b468.jpg

Armagh is also know for it’s Georgian architecture which can be best found around The Mall. The Mall is a public space with the Gaol on one end and the Court House on the other. Alongside it there are some beautiful Georgian houses as well as the Armagh County Museum – the oldest county museum in Ireland! Another example of some Georgian architecture is the local library found on Market Street where you can pick up a few spuds, a carpet and a bunch of flowers if the mood takes you.

f2fc7a14-b67c-42f6-a95f-3db84d29d8fe.jpg

Georgian House by The Mall – swish!

img_8493.jpg

The Library on Market Street – a great place to people watch!

The Palace Demesne is another great place to explore especially during Autumn. The grounds are lined with trees that turn the most amazing colours around October and behind the palace itself are some gardens that many locals don’t even know about. By the gates of the Palace you can find ruins of a Franciscan friary which is a great place to take some snaps before nipping to Friar Tuck’s across the road (it’s a fast food joint so don’t get your hopes up).

img_6533.jpg

The Palace from the Palace Gardens

History

Armagh was named after the ancient goddess Macha (the Gaelic translation of Armagh is “Ard Mhacha” or “Macha’s Height”) who appears in a few different Irish myths. My favourite story of Macha is when she appears as a wife to Cruinniuc who boasted at a chariot race that she could run faster than even the King’s own horses. She begged him not to but she was forced to run despite her carrying twins. She won the race and gave birth on the finish line to Fir and Fial which means ‘True’ and ‘Honest’. She then cursed the men of Ulster to suffer her labour pains in the hour of their greatest need. What a woman!

01f43182-58fe-4749-b046-cc15d5a16a45.jpg

Armagh was also once the ancient capital of Ireland and you can actually witness a little piece of that history by visiting the Navan Fort, a ceremonial monument that was a royal site in Pre-Christian Ireland. There is a visitor centre here that has lots of information on the importance of this site and you can climb to the top and imagine yourself as a Gaelic warrior looking out over your lands. Or you can just take a wee photo for Instagram.

img_6819.jpg

Me pretending to be an Irish warrior

img_7165.jpg

View from the Navan Fort

Food

For breakfast you can’t beat a bagel and Armagh has the infamous Bagel Bean to ensure you start the day off well. There are now two Bagel Bean’s in Armagh on Market Street and English Street in case you needed a choice but most importantly the bagel you have to choose is the BC because it is AMAZING! They do some pretty tasty smoothies too in case you need to wash it down with something nutritious.

2bb00b7a-2b11-40bd-80dc-bb4451c819f3-1.jpg

There are more and more wee lunch spots popping up around Armagh including the Craic’d Pot which is an absolute gem. It’s not like anything else in town and to top it all off it moonlights as a wine bar at night – hurrah! Other great places include Embers and Rumours that both serve hot food that will warm your tummy in the chilly weather. Mulberry is another wee gem that has great views of the Catholic cathedral and does a great brunch too.

a7e57f0b-039e-4dea-a955-a3689d9beea2.jpg

If you find yourself in Armagh to catch a play or concert at the Market Place Theatre you will surely need to refuel beforehand. For a good steak then the Aussie restaurant Uluru won’t disappoint or The Castle Tower both a stone’s throw from the theatre for the wino’s amongst you.

If you are a hallion like me and might still have room for something sweet after a day of eating then please head to Macari’s for ice cream. The place is an institution in Armagh and I will forever have space for a tub of vanilla ice cream topped with melted marshmallow (insert pig emoji here).

Craic

Armagh is not short of pubs although there are a few that I would recommend more than some. Red Ned’s is an establishment that is a regular for many in town. It’s argued they serve the best pint of Guinness in Armagh and they have regular folk and traditional music in the corner to keep the spirits up.

The Hole in the Wall is another classic and has been voted Pub of the Year on numerous occasions. The pub is set in an old jail that dates back to 1615, hence the bars on the windows, and is steeped in history. The pub is said to be haunted but what should give you more of a fright is the pub’s pet parrot, Casper, who will scare the bejaysus out of you when you come through the door!

Countryside

The beauty of a small town is that you don’t have to travel too far to be surrounded by fields and silence. There are a few beautiful locations so close to town where you can shower the head and see the county countryside at it’s best. Since Armagh is the Orchard County of Ireland, I have to recommend a visit during the apple blossom season in May when the county’s roadsides turn different shades of pink. Come again in September when the apples are ready for pickin’ and you get some of the best weather of the year.

walkingawayv2

handinbasketv1

Some other great spaces are Gosford Forest Park or The Argory which is pictured below – no matter how many times I was dragged to this place for school trips I still love it.

38d1e037-6ead-403a-a719-d70489f69513-1.jpg

Well that’s Armagh in a nutshell. If you haven’t had a dander around the streets of saints and scholars yet then I hope this post might give you a bit of encouragement to get in the car and make the trip. It will be well worth it I promise 🙂

Down in the Orchard County: An Armagh Apple Tart Recipe

Down in the Orchard County: An Armagh Apple Tart Recipe

While I was growing up in Armagh, I never fully appreciated the landscape that surrounded our wee town because I was too busy being a moody teenager and showing too much enthusiasm for anything would have been detrimental to my social reputation. Now that I’m older and realise that I will never be cool, I eagerly await the harvest season when the countryside comes to life and the orchards, for which the county is known for, are teeming with fruit.

 

mysunflarev1

 

Armagh is famous for its apples with the Armagh Bramley being the most common variety to be grown throughout the county. The history of apple growing in Armagh dates back around 3000 years with St Patrick himself planting an apple tree at Ceangoba, an ancient settlement found outside the city, so a love of apples is expected amongst those of us born and bred here!

 

pickingapplesv3

 

Luckily we have a friend whose family own an apple orchard so we are able to go down at this time of year and pick our own apples to take home. Picking or gathering your own fruit and vegetables is always so rewarding and being able to turn them in to a delicious meal makes it that bit more special. I have been wanting to make my own apple tart for a while so last Saturday we booked in a few hours of pickin’ down at the Glass Orchard just outside of Loughgall.

 

handinbasketv1

Andrew and I drove down and met up with Marianne and Fergus, two lovely new friends of ours who were delighted to get a day out of the city and in to the orchard. Marianne is a photographer and all the photos in this post were taken by her. She’s got a great eye for it and has started branching out in to engagement and wedding photography so make sure and follow her Instagram page here if you want to see more!

 

appletreev1

 

The weather was amazing considering it was the first day of October –  we had the suns on our backs the whole time and not an umbrella in sight! Even got a go being pushed on a tree swing which I haven’t done since I was a child and was like a giddy 5 year old as I was getting higher in the air.

We gathered a basketful of Bramleys along with some plums and a wee sneaky box of Katy apples that our friend’s Dad smuggled in to my car as I was leaving. Naturally my Mum confiscated the box of Katy’s the divil so I was left with a dozen Bramleys for my tart!

 

undertheappletreev4

 

We had a friend over for dinner last night so it was a great opportunity to get baking. I decided to try a smooth tart recipe – pureed apple makes me feel like a happy little baby and tastes amazing! It was also extremely easy especially since I was a complete cheater and bought ready made pastry! Please don’t judge me.

 

swingv4

 

The tart went down well thankfully with everyone although it was a little runny so bowls had to be used! Still so many apples to use though so I think I might have to bake up some more treats this week – let me know if you have any recommendations on how I can use them up!

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset


Homemade Apple Tart

Ingredients

  • 3 Bramley apples, peeled, cores removed, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 450g/1lb ready-made puff pastry
  • 1 free-range egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 Bramley apple, peeled, cores removed, thinly sliced
  • 75g/3oz butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar

To Serve

  • vanilla ice cream
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Method