Monday, 17 December 2012

Blog put on hold

Hello dear you might have guessed, I'm not quite up to speed on blogging. I hope to rest, review, and return to this blog in the near future.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, 5 November 2012

A Birthday Dedication

Happy Birthday Dad!

My Daddy celebrates 55 years on this earth. This day also happens to be the Autumn Equinox for the Druids.

Shadow wore his party hat for such an occasion.

Friday, 2 November 2012

I'm alive!

Even my bedside lacks a bedside manner.
Yes indeed, I have left my blog by the wayside, but you'll be happy to know I've got many blogpost drafts rolling.

But first my apologies for keeping my readers waiting. I life is so completely awesome and in all of its great awesomeness I've been quite busy juggling as much awesome as I can possibly manage. It's tough being this awesome.

Though the photo was only a test shot before running off to Longford to trace the Farrell ancestry, its only fitting as it really sums up the whirlwind that has been October. Look closely, and you'll notice elements that relate.

I'm settling into the new job and trying to pay my bills, keeping up with a Web Design course, cleaning out my house, a debunked attempt at taking my driving test, and my mom came over to visit. Somehow, I still managed to get to all my Unislim classes, and  after a weekend of sleeping and lounging, I'm getting into the Halloween spirt just in time before the trick-or-treaters arrive. 

R.I.P. Great x 3 Auntie Liz.
Though my blog is more about living in Kenmare, I wanted to share a bit if my recent midlands trip as Halloween is only a fitting time to start walking around in graveyards. St. Brigid's Church in Ardagh, Co. Longford is where I am convinced that I have found where my great great great auntie Elisabeth was buried. My great great great grandfather, Garrett Farrell, emigrated to Boston in 1833. My mom brought over records of multiple Farrell generations, and some records of the Burns family as well, but we will have to do more digging and prepare for Burns adventure next time mom visits. This trip was all about finding Farrells. It's difficult to make out the markings on the grave stones, but I ran my finger along the stone to spell out the date of birth of Elisabeth, and therefore I think this very well could be her gravestone. The amount of deterioration also indicates the grave is about 200 years old more or less. Maybe it is, maybe its not, but my romantic self I would like to think it really is her 6 feet under.

Ardagh Village, Co. Longford

When you get to Longford, one will notice that it's actually quite a boring place. While major kudos to owed to the Ardagh Heritage Centre and the village itself is charmingly well-kept, I can see why many of my ancestors left, along with the politics and turmoil of the early 1800's and what-not. But boring is not bad - I actually like that its not your typical tourist trade, and I enjoy the personal history behind it.

So that's it for now, hopefully November will be a quieter month for me to catch up on blog entries and get re-inspired by the changes in daylight and nature.

Tarmonbarry, Co. Roscommon along the River Shannon

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Summer of Gardening

Summer has officially passed…or did it ever arrive? Now that September is nearly over, Ireland finally gets a bit of sunshine just before the long, cold, dark nights. Alas, I survive yet another boring, rainy summer with little artwork to show for it. My gardening skills, ironically, improved despite the awful weather.

 But first, a bit of nostalgia…

It might be a surprising to some that I actually come a family of gardeners: my dad, with the help of my brothers, turned their little 'hobby plot', into a hearty 3 plot system neighboring with the swimming pool. Before I moved from my Atlanta home, My family grew tomatoes, squash, watermelon, and okra. Dad also has a soft spot for growing pineapples. Mom is very house-proud with her hydrangea bushes and dancing frog figures much to my amusement. My grandmother is a hardcore gardener with a very big plot system, that includes beans, raspberries, herbs, a little greenhouse, and lots more. I have a fond childhood memories of picking raspberries and beans in her garden;  and back at home, my siblings and I used to spit watermelon seeds into what can only be described as a brick troth (originally designed for decorative flowers to grow in) covered with plain Georgia clay soil - much to our excitement, watermelons started to grow - even over-grow out of the brick troth. That was before demolition of the front door, and extension at the front of my parents' house which now holds a classic southern style front porch. I have to admit, I was never a fan of outdoor chores, especially in hot, muggy, Georgia weather. One of my clever catchphrases used to be 'I don't sweat' accompanied by a typical teenage look of disgust. As I resided to keeping my work in air-conditioned indoor spaces for most of my life, this of course meant chances of learning any gardening skills went a-rye. Now that I am older and wiser, I developed a particular interest in eco-friendliness and self-sustainability; it's time to get back outside and re-engage with the natural world - be it sweating or drenched in rain. 

Which brings us back to the present...

This summer, as many summers before, Kenmare Adult Education Centre quiets down in the summer months in preparation for the next academic year. With all the students out of school, Summer is a time when volunteers to come out to the garden and get their hands dirty. The volunteers include a few regular faces annually, and I was a complete newbie. I was welcomed by the volunteers who were happy to show me how to sow seeds and trim tomato plants. I did a lot of weeding and harvesting of broad-beans, mangetout, carrots, potatoes, and onions. Herbs such as fennel, basil, thyme, and rosemary grew extensively. I even got to pot up trimmings of strawberry plants which will take root in hopes to happily fruit away. Every Thursday, there was something new to do, a conversation to have, and the odd nibble of something new. I discovered lemon balm tea, and the advantage of having a polly-tunnel - the main benefit being you can keep working away even in lashing rain!

One of the bigger highlights the summer was the Kenmare Food Carnival, where myself and the other volunteers attended a presentation of celebrity chef, Darina Allen, who spoke about the importance of Slow Food education targeted at a younger age groups. In the developed world, there are about 3 to 4 generations who lost traditional methods in cooking and farming depending on where you live. I know that many people in the US, as well as in Ireland, do not grow their own food. Most of us get our food from the supermarket. Some people might go to the extreme of not cooking at all. I'm actually one of the lucky American kids who at least got to experience gardening, and a bit of cooking. I don't think I can cook very well, but my dad tells me I know more than I think, and I used to cook at a young age. I guess I have to take his word on it. I don't think enough children, Americans in particular, know where food really comes from or what its suppose to look like. This really bothers me, but it also makes me question how much do I really know about food and it's sources? I don't know how to eat in season, and I'm still learning a lot about our food system.

Coincidentally, many of the volunteers came from Bonane, the town-land where I now work, and its nice to know that I have already invested time in getting to know a small piece of that community, even before I got the job. Thomas, who is the main garden groundskeeper, has been very patient and helpful. KAEC's garden is a little bit like Kenmare's best kept secret when it comes to buying organic. As a volunteer taking interest in adjusting to a healthier lifestyle, being in the garden every Thursday gave me the opportunity to learn more about fresh veggies. There are other organic farmers around the place, but I found the garden at KAEC very convenient and re-assuring that what money I paid for produce contributed the up-keep of this centre that has been there for me in the last year. I tip my hat to you, KAEC. You have a lovely garden and other great facilities. I finally stating to feel like I'm falling into the groove if this community and I have you to thank for it.

Just to add another little snippet of history, before KAEC came about, it was the old vocational school that my husband attended during his adolescent/teen years. Even before that, my husband's grandfather, the late Tom Bambury, was the principal for many years at the school and was also a forward-thinking conservationist and avid gardener. It was also nice to see the late Tom's good friend, Nora, pop into the garden every once in a while to say hello and make small chat which all made for a great atmosphere.

If any of my followers would like to check out KAEC's garden, volunteers are usually out on Thursdays, from 11am-1pm. Thomas is around during the working week. The volunteers will be planning to quiet down for the winter before October, so check it out before we all go our separate ways. You might notice the 'Organic Vegetables For Sale' sign off the side of the road.

This little squash decided to try something new…growing outside the polly-tunnel.

New courses and registration are also under way at KAEC, and not just for gardening. So if anyone is interested in learning new skills, earning a qualification, and/or have some extra time on your hands for the academic year, check out KAEC's website. Many of the FETAC Courses start at the end of September, so if anyone is really interested. Give them a shout asap.

Roll on Autumn.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Reflections of Being Unemployed.

Where job searching begins.
Hooray! I finally got a job. I'm particularly grateful to find something so close to home so my husband and I do not have to relocate, and in a sector that is so similar, if not arguably the same sector that I have been keen in finding work for the last 2 years. I felt this would be an excellent time to reflect on what unemployment has taught me.

I became intrigued by a debate via Facebook started by a semi-local radio station not too long ago, debating on whether the welfare system was too cushy or not enough to live at all. I thought the debate was rather dumbed down with the key focus being the 'standard' payment received. What anyone failed to mention is not everyone receives the standard payment, not everyone who makes a claim is the same. The debate was quite heated, and to be honest many of the comments I found were quite harsh, which inspired me to reflect on my personal experience, as well as promote other opportunities via Twitter for those who ever find themselves unemployed as I did. If I hear of any jobs close to the Kenmare area, I will continue to promote them. Prior to unemployment, I never really thought about welfare. Then again, this was the first time in my life since I was 16 that I was unemployed for a prolonged period. That being said...

I've learned not to pass judgment lightly. I believe everyone's situation is completely different and for many, talk is cheap, and it's easy to paint all those who aren't working (for whatever reason) with the same brush. Whether you're a parent, can only work part-time, whether short-term, or  even long-term unemployed, everyone's circumstances are different. I haven't met another person just like me. I wouldn't expect to meet someone with the same circumstances as the next person. Some people have kids. Some people have health issues which make them unable to work at that point in their life. Some people have little or no education, which makes them unqualified for available opportunities. Others have just had a hard and unlucky life. I'm not one to judge why you're out of work the same way anyone has the right to judge me and my circumstances. I can assure nay-sayers, that I'm certainly not that 'lazy-dosser-scum-bag' stereotype that seems to keep floating around, and you know, I haven't quite come across a single person that fits that mold yet, not even in the dole queue.

Once or twice I used to hear some old colleagues say 'I'd be better off on the dole' when I was working, but I don't know anyone who would deliberately take unemployment over being employed. My personal experience has thought me the grass is definitely not greener being on the live register. Stepping into the dole queue month after month, on top of all the job searching, and all the rejection letters from applications makes a person feel inadequate, inferior, and extremely depressed. I could understand how it could be easy to get complacent about it all and give up trying, so perhaps it doesn't mean the more complacent ones out there never had any ambition before. Luckily for me, I'm too stubborn to quit.

I learned that you can get you by, though it's not always ideal. I'm very lucky that I don't have children to feed. I honestly can't figure out how a small family would be able to live off of what me and my husband do. I've always been a savvy spendthrift, I've always lived on a tight budget. Living on small amounts is second nature to me. I keep my phone calls to a minimum. I always turn off the lights. I haven't refreshed my wardrobe since I worked, with the exception of a few 'refresher' items for a wedding, or an interview. Even so, I up-cycled accessories and articles so I never had a brand spanking new outfit. My husband and I didn't take a holiday this year. We didn't buy Christmas presents for our families, except a puzzle and markers for my nieces. I'm happy to accept 'tighter than a duck's arse' title. We ate beans and toast for dinner the odd time when we filled our oil tank for the heating, and even though we had heat, we usually light a fire and wear layers. We're also lucky that free food always seems to be on offer, whether a friend has taken a cow to slaughter, has too many cucumbers from a garden, or a family member foraging muscles, clams, mushrooms, or has some spare fish. Dinner never really seemed to be an issue. Me and my husband are not picky eaters. We're also not party animals, but we are sociable. By keeping our home open and welcome to our friends, we always felt like we are part of the action, even if we decide not to head out afterwards every weekend. It's amazing how cutting back on all the excess, you can spread a budget very thin and still be quite content. That being said, not everyone is as lucky as we are to have access to cheap or free food. If I still lived in Cork, I don't think my friends would be in a position to be offering me excess mince and cucumbers.

Working, and non-working life is different between urban and rural areas. While some people live in cities where it is easier to find a job, others live in rural areas, and the type of work available can vary depending on what part of the country you live in. The cost of living, and how much you spend on particular amenities can vary, like the cost of transport for example. Than again, one cannot spend so frivolously when services, facilities, and means of entertainment are also limited. I also recognize that not everyone is qualified to do the work that is available to them in their local area, which kind of goes back to the whole 'Not judging people' thing.

Employers are picky, no matter where you live, and can afford to be so. I could understand that it's not easy for an employer to sieve through hundreds of CV's - I can understand that it's not easy to narrow down to that one perfect person who will make your company shine like a whimsical unicorn covered in glitter in broad daylight, but do you think employers can be too picky at times?... Sure, an average or simple role might have some level of competent skills required, but isn't training usually provided? So why is it so hard to just pick someone and train them up? Stop wasting time and money. There are 16041 people on the live register in Co. Kerry as of July 2012. I'm going to take a shot that most of them are not going have the exact requirements, or live close enough to justify the commute for the pay, all due to the limited nature of living in a rural community. There's also a great article about why interviews are a waste of time, though I wouldn't exactly go as far to say the interview process is a complete waste, but I can see that you wouldn't want to make the process any more time-wasting than it ought to be. I attended a Group Assessment interview (not for the job I got, but I did find the experience interesting)- this is the future and I'm all for it - put 9 people in a room and see get they get on. Pick the top 4. New staff turnover sorted in less than a hour.

I know the job market is currently in favor of the employer the same way it's a renter's market for finding a decent house that doesn't cost an arm and a leg at the moment. This is also why I'm not too quick to assume that just because there are hundreds of jobs postings on, doesn't mean that there's plenty of work to go around. I would suggest though, if you are a job-seeker, to keep your chin up, and always try to sell yourself in the best way possible to each employer, and of course make sure you are a good fit for the company! Remember, you should evaluate them as much as they are evaluating you. If anything, this process takes some bitterness out the rejection letter. I once interviewed for receptionist position and I was rejected via text, and this unprofessional texting behavior did make me feel better about getting rejected - why would I want to work for someone who couldn't bother to send me a letter or an email? One day, I might even make an art piece or installation out of all of my rejection letters, just to see much my rejection would be valued at.

Life takes you in unexpected directions. When I became unemployed, I was able to enroll in the Business Studies course and meet a lot of new lovely people within my community. I was able to expand my working and business experience further afield, rather than stay limited to just the Arts. It also made me able to try new things like Payroll and Gardening. These courses were as useful in content as they were in getting properly aquatinted with the local Kenmare community.  My previous job did not exactly show people in their finest moments as wonderful human beings, thus fueling resentment when I first moved here so I'm glad that I got a second chance at rediscovering the community.  Who knows what would have happened if I stayed at my old job.  What I do know is that I'm content with the direction in which life has taken me, and believe everything happens for a reason.

And finally....

 Unaware I was being snapped by my husband.
I would like to end by saying that I look forward to my new job as an Administrator for a small community network. Just to add my Disclaimer: my blog does not reflect the views my new employer (anyone I end up working with now or here after) nor do I intend to make this blog a way of promoting my employer...unless of course, I want to, and they want to and it's all in good nature. I think the job will really suit me, and I hope to work to the best of my ability. Though myself and Shadow will miss morning sleep-ins.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Attempting at creating structure and content.

So, it's been almost a month since my first blogpost and I appreciate the amount of views over the last few weeks. Though I'm still trying to figure out what direction this blog should go in, and what should I write about. I know its going to be a 'lifestyle' blog so I don't want to be pigon-holed into one particular interest. That being said, What should I write about?

'Shadow and his boul' by Audrey Atkinson

Should I write about my dog, Shadow? I don't want to end up being one of those crazy dog people who talks about their dog all the time...I've always loved animals, but I think I might be getting very close to being one of those crazy animal people... After all, I refer to Shadow as my little baby.

Should I write about my new-found cooking skills? Learning to cook has been practically a life-long learning curve for me. When I was a kid, the only things I really mastered was Bisquik pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches with Campbell's soup, Mac-and-Cheese pasta, and heating up a can of Spegetti-O's. No, I don't blame my parents for not teaching how to cook, in fact, my mom is pretty handy in the kitchen and my dad is the self-proclaimed 'grill master', a title of which one to my knowledge has tried to debate. I just don't think I ever really had an interest in cooking as a child, so therefore they never pushed me to try. By the time I reached my teenage years, I started working part-time in Pizzerias and/or Retail outlets straight after school, working as late as 10pm, and past midnight on weekends. Dinner was never too far away whether it was at work, at home, or at the local late night diner. College didn't change much either. I was either in school or working. But I did manage to learn a thing or two about Shepard's Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese, and a mean Irish fry-up. Now that I'm out of college and married,  I thought it was time I learn to cook. I have grown a hearty collection of fabulous cookbooks and finally figured out the key to making a half decent omelet, now if only I can master it to perfection, then I'll be the business.
'Spinach Omelet' By Audrey Atkinson  
I should also mention that I joined a weight loss program, so its even more crucial that I learn to cook healthy things if I want to reach my goal. I enjoy the 'Criss gets fit' blog, I subscribed to it via RSS feed.  I'm really inspired my this person, and though I don't really wish to blog about my own personal weight loss journey, I don't mind mentioning fitness and healthy eating from time to time. I'm sure there is plenty of good cookie and cake recipes out there, but I have to be good, especially if I am to fit in a lovely bridesmaid's dress by 2013.

Or perhaps I could write about my studio, and the work that is going on in there. Although my job search over the last few months has stifled my artistic motivation. It's funny how I used to complain about not having time to make art, but now that I have all the time in the world, I lack structure and discipline, and it's pulling me into a very depressing state of mind I'm desperately trying to crawl out of. Maybe if I incorporate my progress on my projects I can finally, well make progress!

Audrey's Studio
I find a lot of arty and crafty ideas on Pinterest and would like to try to incorporate that into my blog.

Speaking of job searching, I've been constantly trotting the job search trail since my course finished. Every CV and cover-letter  edited, analyzed, and tailored to each job application takes up a lot more time than you always think its going to take. But I think my perseverance might be making progress:

After one interview resulting in a rejection via text (how very unprofessional), I ended up with another four interviews in the space of a week! Two went down very well, and the other two I am still preparing for. Watch this space!

'Bookshelf' by Audrey Atkinson
There's a lot of interesting, or less interesting things, I could write about. I could write about all my likes and dislikes, my travels, my life, my husband, the evolution of my garden, etc.

Speaking of gardening, I was actually going to write a blog post about that as I have been doing some volunteer gardening and did a poly-tunnell workshop that I found very inspiring. Before I go blogging about my recent gardening away from my own home, I have to ask special permission first. This bummed me out at first, as I was really excited to have a solid second blogpost and was cut short, but I also think this buys some time to structure out what entries to do at what times of the year.

At first, I thought this could be a weekly blog. Now I think it might turn monthly, or maybe every fornight. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how I get on. I did manage to join Twitter last week in hopes to broaden my blog audience.

So, watch this space for Cooking, Gardening, Travel, Arts & Crafts, and maybe even some Doggie tales, without any that 'dear diary' kinda stuff.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The first post...the hardest part is getting started.

Kenmare Bridge.  Photo by Audrey Atkinson.
So this blogosphere...a new journey, a new project. I wanted to create a blog in hopes to inspire myself, and perhaps and few others, on how to adjust to life in the sticks.

I'm a city girl. I'm used to thriving in an urban environment. However, I also love my husband, and he has a great job in his hometown, which is difficult to get nowadays. I've been unemployed for a while now, and while Kenmare is a fabulous tourist destination, there's not much employment opportunity on offer. This isn't a pity-party blog - I'm determined to adapt and try to enjoy life here, after all, it looks like my husband and I won't be going anywhere for a while so I might as well get used it.

It's not all bad...I have a a dog to keep me company, my husband's family loves me, I have a nice house with cheap rent, and when it's not raining, it actually very pretty out here. I do have a lot to be thankful for.

Now, Just because I've been unemployed doesn't mean that I haven't kept busy. I've done courses in Business Studies and Payroll. I've  taken up volunteer gardening at my local adult education centre. I'm constantly applying and searching for jobs, and applying for other courses. I might even go back to college one day. I'm learning how to cook, I'm going to create a garden, and with a little bit of inspiration and motivation, I might even get back into making art again.  By the way, I'll try to stick to keeping my own photography on my blog. I hope to post on a weekly basis of my little adventures. Hopefully my life will be entertaining to others, and if anyone has any questions or comments for me, I'm happy to respond.