Monthly Archives: December 2016

Year End

In the final hours of 2016 it seems appropriate to look back and forward. On a personal level it has not been an easy year and I know that the same is true for many. For me there have been challenges I would have rather never faced, but there was no choice. It was sink or swim,  so we’re doing our best to swim. The words of Dory in the film Nemo come to mind – “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

I know 2017 will bring more challenges. Some I already know, so I can be prepared, but there are the hidden ones that take us by surprise, that can knock us off balance. I just hope that I will find the grace and strength to meet all these challenges head on.

From a blogging perspective, I have enjoyed the experience of writing, commenting and engaging with the WordPress community. Thank you to all of you who take time to read and comment. It astonishes me that someone halfway across the world would be interested in reading what I have to say. It is humbling. In a world where it seems that we are becoming increasingly divided it is an important lesson. It shows me that we have more in common with each other than we think. Perhaps in 2017, we can spend a little more time finding similarities with each other, and in so doing learn to respect each other and the differences that will inevitability be there too.

There is no magic wand. But there is humanity and each of us in our small way can do a little to change things. It may be as simple as sharing a smile with a stranger. Little steps. Often we are not even aware of the suffering of those around us. But by sharing a smile perhaps we can bring a little light, a little bit of hope into that person’s day.

So here’s too a brighter and more hopeful 2017.

Winter Walk

The weather has been kind this Christmas holiday so Tuesday was the perfect day for a winter walk. I have featured this walk before two winters ago (how times flies!). The walk is part of the Foxford Way and the area is called Laughil, near Pontoon here in Co. Mayo. There are lovely views of Lough Conn from the track.


Lough Conn

Over the years we have been walking here the birch and willow have been growing fast. It’s nice to see this natural regeneration. There is also quite a bit of holly too. Further along the track there are some stunted old oak trees. The trees are festooned in amazing ferns and lichens.

In one place much of the path is covered in fallen oak leaves. Here the low winter sun creates long shadows where there are planted conifers on one side of the path with the more natural woodland (mainly large oak) on the other side.



A lovely, pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

16 for 2016 Final review

This week’s Discover Challenge is Retrospective, and seeing we are in the closing days of December is seems the ideal time to look back on my 16 for 2016 list.

16:  Plant sixteen different vegetables in the garden

Success see previous June Review.

15: Read fifteen books in the year

Success see previous post on books read.

14: Send fourteen wildlife records to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

I had not kept a record of the data I sent to the National Biodiversity Data Centre. But they now have a great online facility that allows you to check you records. And I actually sent in 58, a lot more than I thought! This included ten mammal records, eight bird records, fifteen insect records as well as plant records.

13: Find thirteen interesting items

I didn’t do as well here as I had hoped. I mentioned previously the lovely bit of drift wood and there were the fascinating “By the Wind Sailors“. We did find some nice stones at the beach a couple of times too but still falling short on this one.

12: Give away twelve plants to worthy homes

Success see previous June Review.

11: Have eleven fun days out with the kids

The June count was four. But we had 4 great days out in Wales, and visits to Erris Head. Mulranney beach, Lacken beach and Keem bay.

10: Complete ten butterfly and or bee transects this year

Just got the ten in!

9: Try nine new recipes.

Oh dear, I haven’t been very adventurous! With only three days left I don’t think I will make it! I have just tried a Duck Terrine as a contribution to Christmas eve dinner at my parents. With the exception of forgetting to add the salt it seems to have gone down well. So that and the fish curry are only two that I can recall!!!!

8: Go on eight cycle rides

Cycle rides, again with the exception of the school run in the spring I have been very bad here too. I think I may have had two other cycles!

7: In addition to number 2 below have seven Mayo days out to some of my favourite Mayo places.

Achieved – see June review and 11 above.

6: Try to do six random acts of kindness to complete strangers

With the exception of letting cars pull out and giving some change to a poor homeless lady, and bringing the trolley back for an elderly gentleman I think I have fallen short of this one. Perhaps something to focus on for 2017.

5: With the help of my family make, and put up five bird, bat and /or insect boxes

We’ve done this with the school garden club and still hope to make some at home over the next couple of days!

4: Make four home-made presents for family and/or friends

Falling short on this one too – with exception of birthday cakes for both my parents – if those count?

3: Have three swims, ideally in the Atlantic

I actually had 4 or 5. One at Mulranney beach, two at Ross beach, one at Keem bay and one at Lacken beach.  The Lacken one was more a play in the waves but as it is the Atlantic I am happy enough for it to count!

2: Find two new places in Mayo to explore

We finally explored a small section of the Westport-Achill Cycle Greenway (also called the Great Western Greenway). Which was beautiful. We also enjoyed the beach just down the road at Mulranney.  Erris Head was another wonderful place to visit,  with amazing scenery.

1: Record one new species for the garden

As reported previously the Grey Dagger moth would count for this one.


With Christmas just around the corner, relaxing is still not something I am ready to do. There are a couple of gifts to find yet, presents to be wrapped, cards to be written, not to mention the food shop and cooking. But the tree is up and the children have made a great job decorating it. And I know it will all come together on the day (at least I hope it will!).


There will be plenty time to relax during the holidays – and that is one of the things I look forward too. No school runs and the chance for a little lie in (except maybe Christmas morning when no doubt we will be woken before dawn!).

The other thing I love about Christmas is getting cards and letters – and in particular the letters with all the news from friends and relatives far and wide. It makes me wonder why we don’t write more letters? They are so nice to receive. And I think I will have on my list of ’17 for 2017′ writing more letters – not emails but proper letters, that go in an envelope and get a stamp and you pop in the post box! And don’t get me wrong I love emails too. I have three friends in the UK who I communicate regularly with using email. We email about everything and anything, from family crisis to the woes of defrosting the fridge and I love finding their emails in my inbox too.

I encourage you all to write at least one letter this Christmas season and share the joy of receiving letters.

I hope to post before the weekend so in the meantime I hope you find a little time to relax before the festivities begin in earnest.

Prompted by today’s Daily Prompt: Relax

16 for 2016 Review

With the end of the year looming, I thought it time to start a little review of my 16 for 2016. I thought I would start with number 15 which was to read fifteen books in the year. I have been an avid reader since childhood, so in truth there is always a book by my bedside. I enjoy fiction,  autobiographies and fact especially when based around natural history.

One of the best, if sommothsnowstormewhat depressing nature books I read this year was The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy. A British environmental journalist of note, McCarthy writes about many of the losses mother nature has suffered at the hands of the human race. However, he also asks us to remember the joy nature brings us and reflects on how in many ways nature has been his own “guardian angel”.

Corvus A Life With Birds by Esther Woolfson is the very engaging tale of how Esther and her family have raised various orphaned crovids (e.g. rooks and magpies) over the years. She writes eloquently of how these bright, intelligent birds changed her own life. I have previously blogged about Dave Goulson’s A Buzz about the Meadow which was another firm favourite.

Novels I have read include  The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a sort of realistic fairy-tale set in Alaska in the 1920’s and Irish author Anne Enright’s The Green RoadCastle Book Shop in our local town Castlebar often has some great bargains and this is how I came across Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. I had loved her other book “The Secret Life of Bees” and this second  book did not disappoint. The book gives a fictionalised account of the lives of the Grimké sisters in America and one of their “fictional” slaves. The sisters were among the first female abolition agents in America and were also two of the earliest feminist thinkers.

It is some years since I read Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mocking Bird” and I was looking forward to reading her second book. While I did enjoyed Go Set a Watchman,  it did not stay with me as much as her first book.

The Book Seller of Kabul by jounalist Åsne Seierstad had been on my list to read for some time, so when I saw it on sale in the local book shop I snapped it up. The book tells about the life of a book seller and his family in Kabul in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban. Besiege: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street, written by Barbara Demick was an eye opening account of the affects of the war on the people of the besieged city. It was a real tribute to the people of the city and their determination to survive.

Other books have included:

  • The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton
  • The Love Song of Ms Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce
  • Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell recommended to me by Melissa from
  • 438 Days by Jonathan Franklin

I am currently reading Purple Hibiscus  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I also read to the children most nights and our range is pretty diverse. The local library is an excellent resource and we use it as much as we can. This year we’ve made our way pretty much through their Dirty Bertie collection.  Bertie is always getting into trouble even when he doesn’t mean too! We are steadily making our way through Holly Webbs books too. Many of them are stories about cats and dogs and they always have a happy ending. Mr Stink by David Walliams is a book that particularly sticks in my head. It’s about a homeless tramp and his friendship with a lonely young girl. We’re currently all enjoying Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine.