What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Weetabix with warm milk and brown sugar, toasted wheat bread with butter and marmalade.
What is your favorite childhood book?
This is a hard choice. Being a book lover I equate this kind of question with being asked to choose which of my children I love best. I've tried to narrow it down and the best I can do is this:
The Mystery of the Missing Man by Enid Blyton (The first novel I remember reading. I was thrilled by the detective work of the Five Find Outers.)
The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton (She was naughty and she was fun, and really she was also very nice. What was not to love! I also loved that she attended boarding school.)
Mallory Towers series by Enid Blyton (I loved this story of two sisters attending boarding school. I used to dream of going to boarding school where I could have a tuck box, organized evening study sessions called 'prep', sleep in dorms with a dozen girls and play lacrosse.)
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (This mystery novel was intellectually stimulating in a way that I had not experienced books before. I had to immediately reread this after the first time so that I could savor the whole brilliantly plotted story again.)
Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur, Jr. (After 'The Mystery of the Missing Man' and 'The Westing Game' I was hooked on mystery. Even now, when I feel mentally overloaded and unable to choose another book to read, I can turn to Agatha Christie for a little mental vacation. It's almost like mental floss for me.)
The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of the Melted Coins by Franklin W. Dixon
Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn G. Keane (These last two because they were my first introductions to these two writers and I have this wonderful memory of staying awake all night, for the first time ever, reading these two books back to back. I read the Hardy Boys first and was so thrilled and stimulated that I just wanted to read another great book straight away and immediately read this first book in the Nancy Drew series. That was a great night of reading!)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (This was from my teens and I have reread the whole series again as an adult. I gave one of my daughters "Anne" as a middle name because of this book and both my girls know about, and love, Anne.)
What is your favorite work of art?
Two Tahitian Women by Paul Gaugin. I love the boldness of the colors and the shy yet confident faces of the women. It became a dream to see the original. Coming from a background where there was not a lot of money this was a huge ambition. I made it to New York to see it at the Met when I was 22.
What is your all time favorite quote?
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi
What's your favorite super secret website?
I don't have one, but now I want one and will start hunting!!!
What is your favorite and least favorite chore?
My favorite chore is cleaning the kitchen. It's the heart of the home and the hub of all the nurturing I give my family. My least favorite chore is a tie between emptying the dishwasher and putting away laundry, which is surprising because I absolutely love the feeling I get at the end when everything is put away in its place. It's just the process that feels like a drudge...actually trying to make the time for these is probably more the drudge.
What makes your house uniquely your home?
The people in it…and our books. Not living in my native country now, and having lived in other countries too, has led me to think a lot about how I define my sense of home. I usually don't feel strongly attached to the structures I live in. I get my sense of place and home from feeling a strong sense of connection to my husband and children. It doesn't matter where that is. The structure itself feels like home when we have our books lining the walls in bookcases :)
Will you share a favorite recipe?
My Irish Tea Brack
Irish Tea Brack, Dublin Stew, Irish Brown BreadIrish Tea Brack
10oz sultanas (golden raisins)
4oz brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ pint cold black tea
20oz self-raising flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
Soak fruit and sugar in tea and vanilla overnight.
Preheat oven to 325F.
Sieve flour and spices into bowl.
Melt butter. Lightly beat the eggs and add both to the fruit mixture.
Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix well.
Turn mixture into a greased and paper lined 8-inch round tin.
Bake for approximately 1 hour to 1 ½ hours, checking after 1 hour with toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Continue baking at 5 minute increments until toothpick comes out clean. If necessary, cover with aluminum foil to prevent top from burning.
Remove brack from oven and cool on wire rack for 10mins. Remove from tin and allow to cool completely before cutting.
If using all-purpose flour, add:
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
You can add 4oz walnuts to recipe, but reduce to 8oz raisins and 8oz sultanas.
My tea preference is decaf Earl Gray for soaking tea.
What homemade project are you most proud of?
I'm going to answer this as a home project that I'm most proud of. Deciding to clear out our garage and turn it from an ugly, disorganized place of storage to an organized and cheerier functional space. Previously it was just felt like a black hole that drained my energy. I dislike having to go in there to do laundry or find something. The challenge was to use only paint and the rearrangement of furniture we already own. I love the garage now. We donated/gave away a lot of stuff and now I can really fee the energy flowing in there.
Click here for photos of the garage makeover
What do you miss the most about growing up in Ireland?
I miss being surrounded by Irish voices and accents; the warm, hearty food that my mother cooks; and the beauty of the landscape.
What are some of your favorite Irish traditions that you are carrying on with your girls?
This is a hard one to answer. There are no specifically Irish traditions that we are carrying on with the girls per se. We teach them that my husband and I are Irish and that they are Irish and American. We teach them that this country has a lot of people whose origins are outside the country and that differences are interesting and wonderful. We have also brought them to Ireland several times and have familiarized them with how beautiful the country looks. Being Irish, we talk about death openly and naturally. We share our culture with them in that they love Irish music and dancing. They love stories of leprechauns and the pooka and the banshee. And I try to create the same sense of routine and comfort I remember from childhood mealtimes. We have some favorite meals always on the same day of the week (they love the predictability of these). I am trying to cultivate the joy of food I loved growing up (and still love): eating potatoes (cooked any way), stew, cabbage, tea bracks, mince pies, boiled eggs with soldiers, Irish sausages and home made, thick cut, chips (french fries).
Now that you've read about Susan, go on over and say hi!