Lifestyle, Travel

These vagabond shoes….

Rockefeller Centre

So, after many stops and false starts – we got to New York. Covid initially stymied our trip and then the very happy incident of a spanking new glorious grandchild. Over the past two years, I have been avidly asking all and sundry for suggestions and I kept a list on my phone of must sees both well known and not so well known, got a Guide Book and kept updating our hotel so many times I was on first name terms with staff there and in hotel! We had originally booked to see the all singing and dancing star that is Hugh Jackman in The Music Man at The Winter Garden. This booking also went through many stops and false starts; at least Hugh and I were having the same travails. However, the tickets were originally nearly $600, and by the time we got to really say “that this is it, we’re off”, the tickets had increased their price to $1000 extra. You know much and all as I would have loved to have seen the show, this price was just way beyond what we wanted to spend. We cancelled; with absolutely no bother whatsoever.

After doubly, trebly, quadruply checking all our necessary forms, Covid related, Esta related, location checker related, Verifly – which was an Aer Lingus app that linked to our passport and all necessary documents – we were on a Flight, leaving our dogs in the loving and capable hands of our son and girlfriend. Just a note of caution, my husband goes by the name of “Dan” but of course, his passport had “Daniel Joseph”. This caused him to unleash lots of blue air around his head as he tried to link the various papers. We landed in a sunny, but brisk New York and got a yellow taxi outside. Ignore various random people offering taxis; the yellow ones offer a set fare of $63 plus any bridge or tunnel tolls. But don’t forget – and this was our first introduction to the tipping service of 20% that was across the board everywhere you went – a tip is obligatory. 20% is the minimum tip and you just feel you are subsidising wages. Always happy to tip when service is good and a bit of charm is thrown in for good measure but loathe though I am to say it, Taxi drivers were, on the most part, unfriendly.

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot………”

We stayed in, an Art Deco Hotel, in the Flatiron District,  within walking distance to Midtown and Chelsea, shopping on Lower Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building and right beside The Museum of Sex………….. quickly put our bags into our very nice room with lovely Art Deco fittings and set out to find something to eat and have a little nosey around the area.

Madison Square
A walk to the Flatiron Building

We found a vast, bright and airy Indoor Italian Food Market called Eataly, very close to the Flatiron. Opened in 2007, it’s part restaurant complex, part food market. Rare Italian wines, cheeses, fresh breads, seafood and meats sourced locally or flown in from Italy, to be had. It was buzzing and wonderful. We shared a seafood starter, had two great seafood pasta mains and Prosecco. We wandered around the area a little as Madison Square was just across the road. All the pooches were out for their evening stroll, very well behaved, but we both just imagined our two setters and lurcher in such an environ. No chance to run free and cause general mayhem, but I’m glad they have space. Gramercy Park is close and is the city’s only private park and residents of the surrounding buildings have keys to the gate. I was dying to see the Brownstone Buildings, so reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw. Cue chiffon skirt, blown by air vents. When you know, you know. There is a lovely Brownstone at 15 Gramercy Park South, which houses the National Arts Club. We took a walk to what is described as “an atmospheric” bar, called Pete’s Tavern. Yes, had loads of atmosphere, but also Covid still existed, so we held off. In fairness, all establishments required a Covid Pass and some form of identification before you were allowed in. We also passed Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace. It was late in the evening at this stage, so we didn’t go in, but the Guidebook states it holds exhibits, and is reconstructed to imitate his boyhood home.

Next morning, breakfast was very simple fare and self service . Absolutely fine, but nothing to write home about . Prior to arriving, we had booked a New York City pass, which allows you choose the sights you want to see. There are a number of City Pass options; the one that we opted for, which cost €120.00 per person, allowed us to choose up to 5 locations. We had an itinerary which had the five spots that we wanted to see on this trip. In fact, we only used three of them (I’ll explain this later).

However, for our first day we decided to buy tickets for the Big Bus on/off tours to enable us get our bearings on the city. Some of the City Pass options include this so you might want to check that. We bought the tickets through a company called Viator The Blue bus took us Uptown and the Red, Downtown. They are open top, with a covered in section at the front – luckily, as it was raining badly. You get the usual ear plugs to listen to the commentary, which is wisecracking, but ultimately grating and uninformative; still the best way to get a feeling for the city. The Downtown bus left us in Times Square, and we walked about “100 miles” to get to Chelsea Market for lunch and just loved the whole vibe and promised ourselves we’d return. We then walked the High Line which is at the back of Chelsea Market. This is a transformed, disused railroad linking Midtown, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, (which happened to be closed).

Highline crossing 10th Avenue
High Line Water Tower

Behind Chelsea Market is Pier 54, which was the pier the Lusitania left from and the Titanic was to arrive at. There appears to be a lovely open air theatre built, which on a day very unlike the one we were walking in, would be lovely. Great views of Lower Manhatten and the Jersey shoreline. We then got back onto the High Line and walked to its end at Hudson Yards.

Pier 54

Hudson Yards is New York’s newest neighbourhood and home to more than 100 diverse, very exclusive shops and culinary experiences and really, really rich people. We nearly ran through the shops for fear of being stopped for looking so bedraggled. We returned to Times Square to pick up the Uptown Bus which took us past the MET and Central Park.

We ate in an Italian restaurant called Patsie’s near 52nd Street, which was ok and very friendly. A Canadian friend of mine, suggested another very good Italian called Osteria Morini which we think would have been much better. We had booked the Circle Line Boat Tour. which departed from 83 North River Piers West 43rd Street. We booked, once again, on Viator and it was around €40.00 per person. This was brilliant. The twinkling lights of Manhattan, Jersey Shore, Brooklyn, Queens, Statue of Liberty lit up, under the bridges and a terrific guide who was full of information, all added to a wonderful evening. Well worth the trip which took about two hours. A drink was had back in the hotel to relive our day and rest our weary bones.

Next morning, Dan had organised a Secret Food tour around Greenwich I just love these and what was even better, the weather had turned into summer overnight. We walked around Christopher Street, the symbolic heart of New York’s lesbian and gay community. Here among the cafes is the site of the formerly Mafia run Stonewall Inn (now a gay-pride-flag-waving Karaoke bar) and of the eventual Stonewall Riots of 1969. There is a gated triangle known as Christopher Park where commemorative statues of four life-size white painted figures (a gay couple and a lesbian couple) have been since their unveiling in 1992.

Christopher Park

We met our guide close by. His name was Nicky and he was just great. He had come to New York for love and his acting career. So far, he had dressed as a bear on Broadway but was going for an audition the following day; its hard graft to succeed in this career, as I well know, and I would absolutely love to know how he did. Anyway, the tour included MacDougal Street, Bleeker Street, Grove Street. We both said that if we ever returned, Greenwich is where we would like to stay. We ate Falafal, Bagels (divine, I never like them here), Cupcakes, Taco – a mix of Indian and Mexican, and the most amazing pizza in Two Boots , doughnuts. We passed some lovely little cul de sacs with a house that was 8 feet in width and was being sold for $5 million. Also a shout out to the “Friends” building on Grove Street

Friends Building on Grove Street.
Doughnuts to die for

We pottered by ourselves through Washington Square Park and Mews. Lovely area. We ventured on the subway for the first time. Getting tickets is straightforward. You can buy one card, which can be used by more than one person. When buying a card, it asks for your Zip code, and anyone who is not American is advised to put in “99999”. A word of caution, the subway goes Uptown and Downtown so just make sure you go through the right turnstiles, because once you go through, you can’t make your way across to the correct side for you in some of the stations. This sounds like common sense, but believe me – we got caught twice. The other useful thing is to download the New York subway app. Invaluable.

Our nearest Subway (Uptown and downtown!!)

We had been told by my cousin about this amazing book store called The Strand So worth a visit. You could browse for hours. And funnily enough, all the books we knew had different sleeves; just an observation. Go! We had booked the Empire State building via our City pass. Also well worth a visit. We strolled up Broadway to get there, and the beauty of this time of year was that there was no queuing. Covid pass and passport later and up we go, glad of our fleeces and hats at this stage. The view is tremendous from all 102 stories. The lift speeds you on your way, and King Kong failed to grab this blonde old broad.

Empire State Building
Empire State

Each night the top of the Empire State Building is lit with different colours. My second photo is lit with the Ukranian colours during this dreadful time.

Queens from The Empire State Building

We hit Chelsea Market or rather, right beside it, for a meal we had booked online. We had been told that Buddakan was worth going to for the Dim Sum alone. “Vivid flavours of the Far East in a surreal atmosphere that marries the serenity of Asia with the flamboyance of 16th century Paris”. It didn’t fail. It was young and vibrant and had an interesting, cavern-like ambience with art, sparkling chandeliers, guilded touches, brick walls, intimate corners and the prettiest waiters (male and female) I ever did see. We couldn’t get the Taster Menu, as there was only the two of us, but we dined so well. Worth a visit. Taxi back to hotel, sated.

On Thursday, we had decided to do the Boat tour of a visit to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. (This was the second of our City Pass tours) After boarding the ferry from Manhattan after a short queue, it was a quick trip to land on the grounds of Liberty Island and to go inside the Statue of Liberty Museum. So interesting to learn how the Statue was built in France and disassembled and shipped to New York in 1885. It was designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, constructed of copper to make the structure lighter. Gustave Eiffel, of the Eiffel Tower fame in Paris, created the internal structure to support the outer copper skin. All fascinating, as there are films and stills of the construction and you get to see the sheer scale of the monument. It was a bitterly cold day, and we were very happy to have a snack in the cafe. It’s basic fare, but very good; dine in and takeaway so could be great on a sunny day with children.

The lady herself

Dan was never a dancer, always treading on a lady’s toes

Then a short hop on the ferry to Ellis Island to learn about the millions of people who arrived here between 1892 and 1954 in hope of living the American dream. I loved this. I would have liked a more interactive museum, one whereby an account of their lives was retold by certain individuals – just to bring it even more alive. But it was still so very interesting. History was told with the help of wonderful photographs and voices of actual immigrants. 12 million people passed through Ellis Island’s gates, all having to pass social and health questions before gaining admission to create their own dream. Some poignant stories to be heard.

Next stop, the 9/11 Memorial – Ground Zero (The third of our City Pass tours)

Trade Centre
Memorial rose at The Trade Centre

This was unforgettable, moving and so tastefully honouring those who lost their lives in 2001. On the ground interviews, constant recording of voices, naming relations who died; it’s heartbreaking stuff. The story is told through artifacts, original walls of either or both of The Twin Towers, fire engines used in the aftermath and a tribute wall of people who have died; cameras obviously not allowed. There is also a section on the dogs who comforted responders and the families of the victims and searched the wreckages. Ten years after the attack, the photographer, Charlotte Dumas, was curious about the fates of these dogs and travelled the length and breadth of the United States to capture portraits of them in retirement.

We went back to the hotel after this, changed and got a taxi in rush hour traffic to go to an incredible restaurant nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge called River Cafe It was fine dining at its best. The most romantic spot, surrounded by fairy lights and cobbled stones, cocktails at the bar looking out on the Lower Manhattan skyline, wonderful food and even a little stool rest for my handbag………..we mortgaged the house to come here. Not cheap, but incredible food.

An anniversary, celebrated at long last (phone image)

Took the NYC Ferry back to Wall Street to get a taxi to hotel. (Again there is an app available to purchase tickets, plan routes etc.)

Next day, it was snowing…yes, we almost got all four seasons during our stay. We had booked our Top of the Rock Observation Deck with our City Pass – our fourth tour – but visibility was far too poor and they closed it for the day. Onwards towards Central Park. We walked in by the John Lennon Memorial at Strawberry Fields, 72nd Street on George Harrison’s birthday; quite apt. The memorial is quite close to Lennon’s apartments. We strolled through a very quiet and atmospheric park, using one of the available apps to talk us through. It’s a beautiful oasis in a very busy city.

A wintery Central Park
Central Park

The last of our City Pass plans had been the MET, but possibly because of such a bad day and people wanting to be inside, the queue was very very long and we had plans later. So, instead we went in search of food and had THE most divine bagel in a place called Tal Bagels. The glass cabinet had cream cheeses piled high, each with different additions, such as peppers, tuna, chicken, spices etc.

My niece had recommended a tour of The Tenement Buildings on Orchard Street Oh, do not miss this if you are like us and love hearing how the ordinary folk survived and lived. You can see a film beforehand if you arrive before your allotted time as you have to book, which follows the creation of and desire for the museum. You can choose which tour to attend. There are actual building tours of the recreated homes of former residents between the 1860s and the 1980s as well as walking tours of the neighbourhood they lived in. We chose the story of the Baldizzi family who lived in 97 Orchard Street during the Great Depression. One of the Baldizzi girls was alive up until very recently. She talked of having fun at a tiny table with her dad, who played with them all day as their mother worked in a clothes factory. This was, of course, because he was out of work. Shared water closets and windows within the rooms, looking into the next door neighbour’s flat with no privacy; small, pokey, dark and gloomy, crowded by a large family but remembered by this woman, as a place of love and friendship.

Image of hall, taken from website

Because we hadn’t yet seen a show on Broadway, and I know that any one of them would have been spectacular, we booked a show Off-Broadway, which means it holds less than 500, nothing whatsoever to do with location which was news to me. It was a terrific, audience participation show called Drunken Shakespeare. Basically taking the p*** on Macbeth. Great fun. Burger and chips off Broadway and hotel.

Our last morning was spent going around the shops, mainly Macy’s as we don’t have here and there was a little grandson to be bought for. I’m writing very little on shopping and I know that there are some great outlets to go visit. It really wasn’t the main focus of the trip and anyway, Dan has to be dragged screaming and kicking at the outset. Then he succumbs!

As you can see, we only got to use three of the City Pass Tours, so it is questionable whether it is better to book the tours individually, to be more money savvy and also to be more discerning as to what you choose in each given season.

All in all, a jam packed trip. But the question is would we return? I very much liked New York, had a wonderful time, but I have loved some European cities. That’s my answer.

Bren xx


Fashion for 60s

If you read my blurb, all about me, you would know that there are certain clothes that I will never wear.  I am most definitely not a pink, or frilly or sparkly person.  I loathe white trousers, well those that cling in all the wrong places so I suppose the trick is to get a material that is really good quality and make sure they don’t hug the knees and are a bit bendy.  However, you still won’t catch me buying them because I am very fair skinned and think they look wonderful on those among us who are lucky enough to have sallow skin.

I have been fortunate enough to be styled for TV Fashion by the likes of Roxanne Parker, Judy Gilroy, and Lisa Fitzpatrick and all had an instinct about what suited me.  I have a shape that is common to a lot of women.  I have very small boobs and a bigger bottom half.  All in all, it still amounts to being a size 10.  I aid and abet my tiny boobs with a good bra, preferably smooth,  padded and sometimes resort to “chicken fillets”.  I have a funny story about those that my friends know all about!. All I will say is, be very careful when wildly jiving at a new job work bash.  I think at the ripe old age of 60 I know what suits me and what doesn’t.  I prefer the longer lines on my top half, and love the new trick of tucking shirts or tops into the front of trousers/skirts and leaving the back down, so as to balance what my sister used to call my “ballet bottom”.  I love both crisp shirts and flowing, not bulky, skirts, though not necessarily together.  I am better making my top half look broader, once again to balance things out.  If I wear a pencil skirt, I like the top or v necked sweater to come to the top of my thighs.  I like my trousers to be fairly high waisted (think Simon Cowell) and to allow me to either wear brogues or kitten heels.  I really adore trouser suits, as opposed to skirt suits.  I like midi dresses and sometimes  vintage; check out Charlotte and Jane who made me the most glorious Mad Men dress, perfect for Mother of the Bride.  I would never wear anything above my knees.  It just doesn’t suit me and I actually think that it rarely suits women of a certain age.  God bless opaque tights.  Likewise I prefer sleeves to come to either just above or below my elbows, or full length.  Crepe is all very well in a material or as a pancake……………..

I love jeans that have a bit of give in them, and I found the absolutely perfect pair in And Other Stories  Best pair.  Hands down. Comfy and just the right length for my 5’10.


I bought both these dresses from Instagram @kristinitla and they were  just perfect for summer and winter and did everything I want a dress to do.  She has some very good sales and they took no length to arrive. I tend to wear a certain shape in a heeled shoe; rather than round toes,  I think more of a point elongates the legs and makes your ankles look better.

I found the following on my “dry January” browse of the internet shopping.  I decided that since I retired, I really need to wear all the clothes in my wardrobe. So I am not buying.  Repeat after me, Brenda. I was very very very tempted by the sale in Zara – do have a look.  Better by far than browsing the rails

I really want this, especially since my hair is redder and think charcoal grey is divine.

Can’t go wrong with black tuxedo jacket in your wardrobe.

Love contrasting patterns

Perfect over jeans – very country chic.

Cos is a great store, and I have a very chic friend, Marianne, who is smaller than I am and also a completely different shape and always looks elegant and well put together in clothes that she often buys here.  They do wonderful crisp, white shirts.

I love bottle green but think I would wear this with a tan belt and boots.  I am a big fan of not wearing something right up to the neck,  rather leaving some decolletage. It just seems to lengthen the neck and doesn’t concentrate on any turkey neck one might possibly have.  I love polo necks for just the same reason and an icon is Diane Keating.

So, that’s my style.  Sometimes, I get it.  Sometimes I don’t,  But you know despite knowing the bits of my body that I don’t particularly like, I concentrate on the fact that I can move.  I can dance – with or without chicken fillets.

Bren x


Rooms. Small + dark – a mistake? Not one bit

Small rooms can be a decorating challenge, and we often reach for light colors in hopes of making the room look larger. However, a light color palette isn’t the only way to decorate your small space, and it doesn’t always make a room look larger. Don’t be afraid to use dark colors in even the smallest rooms of your home; small spaces can handle a dark color palette.

We have a small house, a bungalow.  Most rooms have seen various coloured walls but they have never seen wallpaper.  They were plastered well when the house was built 27 years ago and it just never entered my mind to wallpaper.  However, that doesn’t stop me admiring wall papers and accent walls and I adore  and for paint. I mean just look at this image below.  It’s called Crane Fonda Emerald from Divine Savages and it speaks to my soul.  Look no further for inspiration then on these sites if you feel like that whole gorgeous process of putting the paste on the wallpaper and hanging.  To be honest, I used to love the smell and the whole procedure, watching my mum slapping it on but I have a very crooked eye and would be fearful of it going horribly wrong, so will leave it to the experts if ever I change my mind to paper.

Of course, the colours themselves are so complementary to each other on the colour wheel.  What I have found, ably abetted by a very good friend, Celina, is that it is so last year, never mind last ten years, to be matchy matchy and this has helped my little adventure in our home.  We wouldn’t ever have a huge amount to spend, and I have painted wardrobes in Stiffkey Blue  (they were pine – say no more) and our kitchen cupboards in some lovely Pigeon from Farrow and Ball and who do a very reasonable version of all Farrow and Ball.

Anyway, back to colour in small rooms.  We recently did up our very small, and euphemistically called, study.  I am inspired daily with Instagram and I will list below my favourite interior inspo. Our room was inspired by Lucinda Mitra @nest_twenty_eight

and this is how my little room turned out


I love this Hague Blue Farrow and Ball colour on the walls and we continued the paint right down to the skirting board and the bookshelves and although quite a tiny room, it was not swamped in any way. It changes shades, depending on the light available which I love. Cushions and lamp were

I keep seeing darker colours wherever I look and although most rooms in our house are either painted white or grey, I am so tempted to go darker in some rooms, albeit I will drive my darling husband mad.  I mean just look at these….

Brinjal in Farrow and Ball and

Deco Martini Arsinic (what a name) from Divine Savages again.

Even a small bathroom can look amazing with colour.

Speculo Forest Green tiles by Topps found in

So, if you are a scanner of Instagram like myself, look no further than these people for inspo.  @roomswithdogs, @cynthia_harper, @nest_twenty_eight, @mad_about_the_house, to name a few. Let’s bring some moody colour to our lives…..

Bren x


Christmas Pudding

Recipe from my great grand-mother.  I still have it in my mother’s hand writing, on a very worn and fragile piece of paper and only gave it to one friend, whose husband made about 8 last year.  Dan suggested I share, as he swears it’s the best pudding he has ever tasted.  Leave to eat for a year, if you want.  Or at Easter…………..

½ lb plain flour

½ lb bread crumbs

Small teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon each of cinnamon,  ground ginger and mixed spice powder

2 ozs. chopped mixed nuts

1 dessertspoon baking powder

½ lb demerara sugar

½ lb raisins

½ lb currants

½ mixed peel

½ lb orange marmalade

½ lb butter (chopped up for convenience)

3 whisked eggs

1 lemon (rind grated and juice)

1 carrot grated

1 cooking apple chopped

Now the fun part:

½ pint of Guinness

Shot glass of Irish whiskey

All dry ingredients first.  Then wet.  It is very important that you let the your loved ones mix the Guinness and whiskey in and take three turns of the spoon to make a wish.  EVERY YEAR

Butter small pudding bowls (makes 1 medium and 1 small and I use very old pottery ones. ) Butter grease-proof paper over bowl then tin foil and tie tightly leaving handle to remove from 8 hours boiling/steaming.

I put in large saucepan and boil/steam on a day off, constantly checking water level and adding to just half way up bowl.  On Christmas, to serve hot, put in microwave at full power for 8 mins, or re-steam for hour.

Serve with nice brandy butter and cream

Bren x




Brenda’s Little Helpers

Hitting the menopause at the ripe old age of 58, was when everything seemed to start dropping off, drying up, mixed in with a large dose of “glowing” in not the best way.  Up to that point, my skin and hair were grand, albeit when I looked in the mirror without my glasses.  I have found the soft focus provided by not wearing my glasses is definitely the light that Joan Collins asked the camera man to use in “Dynasty”.  (Now, that is definitely showing my age.)

I am an advertiser’s dream; but have got much more enlightened as to what works.  For me – and that’s important.  I get skin treatments and will talk about the places I go and what treatments I like, in another post.  These above products are what I take and what works, for me,  from the inside out.  Aided and abetted by lots of water, especially glasses of cooled, boiled water as I find it goes down much easier and lots and lots of green tea.  I won’t mention the wine which is purely for medicinal purposes.  Nothing nicer than the pop of a cork and the glug glug of a crisp glass of Sauvignon with lovely friends.

IoniCell – the blurb “IoniCell for Women is a supplement that helps the body generate collagen, grow lustrous hair, helps nails grow stronger, rehydrates cells for healthier skin, and stimulates collagen for a more youthful appearance. It works to protect, energize, and enhance cells through a patented ingredient, Ioniplex, which is a naturally occurring fulvic acid that contains over 65 trace minerals. It works at the cellular level to promote beauty from deep within.

It has been scientifically shown to reduce naturally occurring cell damage by promoting cellular integrity and function through the signature ingredient. This results in stronger and thicker nails, smoother and healthier hair, and more radiant and youthful looking skin. It improves the appearance of all hair types.”

This is what I have found after three months of usage.  Definitely better hair.  I do use good quality shampoos, and don’t bother with styling tools during the week, to help.  My hair is thicker after a lot of damage from extensions and has grown much quicker in the last two months.  I’ll never be Rapunzel, but when I use styling tools, the style holds much better. My skin quality has improved, not so much of a parched desert with cracks scenario and my nails are growing really well.  Since retiring, I am a divil for finding things to do around the house, but there has not been any breakage in the last 8 weeks, which is pretty good

MenoMin – the blurb “Cleanmarine® MenoMin is ideal for menopausal women, helping to regulate hormonal activity, maintain normal mucous membranes, as well as reduce tiredness and fatigue. Plus all the benefits of Cleanmarine Krill Oil.

Traceability from Sea to Shelf: Cleanmarine phospholipid Krill oil ingredient has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as being from a well managed, sustainable traceable fishery. Provides omega 3 as phospholipids which provides benefits in key areas including;

  • Mg to mg Cleanmarine delivers 60% more omega 3 to the cells than fish oil
  • Faster Omega 3 absorption
  • Doesn’t repeat like fish oil”

Now remember the dropping off, the drying up, the “glowing” I talked about earlier?  Honestly, these have really helped..  I am not kicking the bed clothes off, I’m up at 8am most mornings as I’m retired,  and just don’t feel as tired.  Anything to get through what can, essentially, be a hard time for women and finally….

Zenflore – the blurb “Zenflore supports your mind and body during busy and demanding times and reduces fatigue. The special 1714-Serenitas culture in Zenflore was discovered and developed by PrecisionBiotics®, in partnership with scientists and clinicians from one of the world’s leading centres of research on the microbiome and the gut-brain axis, the APC Microbiome Institute in UCC, Ireland. By combining this unique Bifidobacterium longum 1714TM culture with specially selected vitamins, Zenflore supports your mind and reduces fatigue. This naturally occurring bacteria is part of the family of bacteria given by mother to baby at birth.”

If I could recommend anything, I would recommend these.  You know those fluttery feelings of anxiety that one can get, sometimes upon waking.  When all the little and large worries of the day take hold. Or just before sleep… these just help.  I honestly can cope so much better.  The world can be hard at times and I, for one, constantly worry about my family as all I want is their happiness.  If I was to take nothing else, I would take these.

I haven’t put in any links to any of the above.  They can be got very easily online or in shops

So here’s to things staying put, and feeling generally less of a red tomato more of a pink, velvety rose.  And no crankiness………..


Bren x





I have these really old cookery books.  The one I took this recipe from was from the Irish National Dairy Council from 1985, and I borrowed (stole) it from my sister, Marie. It is dog eared and flour eared at this stage.  I also often use a very old book that my cousin used back in the day when girls did Domestic Science as part of the school curriculum called “All in the Cooking”.  It’s just brilliant for simple things like pancakes mixes and also does a great line in soups and broths for invalids (!) and sauces. We have so many cookery books at home.  We love Donal Skehan and Rick Stein but my husband is the real cook in the house; one of those boring people who just improvises and tastes and adds a soupçon here and a soupçon there and has no difficulty with timing. Unflappable. Insert eyes up to heaven emoji.  Anyway, this is a fool proof recipe for profiteroles.  The chocolate sauce is to die for and you can’t go wrong and it works for 6 people so just halve or double to your heart’s content.

Choux Pastry  

4 ozs. butter, 1 pint water, 5 ozs. plain flour, pinch of salt and 4 eggs beaten.

Put butter and water into a saucepan over a low heat.  When butter has melted, bring to a brisk boil

Reduce heat to a low setting, add sieved flour and salt all at once to saucepan. Beat (and I mean beat) over the heat until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan clean and forms into a ball.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Gradually add the beaten eggs, a little at a time.  Beat (and I mean, beat) after each addition.  After all the eggs have been added, the mixture should be shiny and hold its shape.

Pipe (actually, I use two tea spoons) onto greased baking trays into mounds that are 1 inch across, spacing them a little apart.  Bake in preheated oven at 220 degrees (mine is a fan oven) for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180 degrees for 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and make a hole in each profiterole with the point of a knife to release the steam. Cool completely on a wire tray before filling.

When cold, pipe (I use a teaspoon – you can see the extent of my  technical ability here) a little whipped cream into the profiteroles and pile them on a serving plate. I try for the pyramid effect.

Chocolate Sauce


8 ozs. dark chocolate (I use Bournville), 6 tblspns. cream, 2 tblspns. brandy or Jamaica Rum. Captain Morgan does the trick for us.

Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl with cream and rum.

Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts

Just before serving pour the sauce over the profiteroles.  I do this at the table so guests can go “ooh and aahh”.  Because at my age, the more Oohs and Aahhs you get the better.  Serve with whipped cream and remaining chocolate sauce.

Oh.  And drink the rum…………………..

Bren x



Halloween Barmbrack – as old as the hills


We used to call this Tea Brack, I suppose because of soaking the fruit in cold tea beforehand.  We used to have great Halloweens, but actually rarely did the whole decoration “thing”.  We did, however, play games.  One was where my mum used to stand on a chair and have an apple which was smeared in jam hanging from a twine the full length of her height.  As she swung the apple, we had to try and take a big bite out of it while the jam smeared all over our faces and hair.  Another was to have some money in a bottom of a basin of luke-warm water and we had to dip our heads in and try and get that coin.  We would have lots and lots of callers for Trick or Treat, and monkey nuts and fruit were the main goodies.  Things have changed.  And it’s kind of sad that kids don’t call much anymore.  I remember dressing up as Joanna Lumley in Ab Fab one year. Stuck two large Christmas decorations in my ears, lots of hairspray, cigarette, bottle of champers, syringe full of Botox and Bob really was my uncle.  One of my better moments, because God help my children, I was never good with the old needle and thread and they either ended up in bin bags with things stuck on, or bought costumes.  Terrible mother!!  Anyway – to the recipe handed down by my grandmother.

1 lb of dried fruit (at least half raisins),

6 ozs brown sugar

Half pint of cold tea

1 lb plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

Grease 8″ tin and line with grease proof paper

Soak fruit and sugar in tea.  Next day, sieve flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Stir in soaked mixture.  Mix in beaten egg, milk and put in tin, .

Bake for 2 hours at 180 degs. Make sure to place a ring, a piece of cloth and a stick, all wrapped up in grease proof paper.  Whoever gets the ring, will marry; whoever gets the cloth will be a  nun, and whoever gets the stick will never marry

Bren x


20 things about me

  1. I can read Italian much better than I can speak it
  2. I aim to rectify that
  3. I will never, ever wear a waterfall cardigan or a skirt above my knees or white trousers
  4. I adore all dogs and will happily converse in a dog voice
  5.  I have special friends who are all kindreds of some sort
  6. I write poetry.  Very badly
  7. I would lie under a bus and die or fight and claw for my children
  8. I read voraciously
  9. I call myself street sharp as opposed to intelligent
  10. I acted in the West End
  11. I love eating all foods but can happily go a day without food.  An oxymoron.  Sort of
  12. I love words like oxymoron
  13. I am a really good listener
  14. I would happily sing if you wanted to clear a room
  15. I want to do Strictly Come Dancing
  16. I am qualified to teach drama
  17. I am never sick
  18. I adore clothes that suit my age, are a bit out of the ordinary and want to design them (in my dreams)
  19. But I immediately slip into trakkies when I come home.  My dog drools
  20. I want very much to live every day as if it’s my last



Bren x


The Whys and wherefores


Hi there, I’m Brenda and I decided to start writing a little blog for absolutely no reason other than I wanted to try it and I love writing and I honestly don’t care if I am the only one who sees it!

I live in Dublin with my husband, Dan, have two “children”, Joanne and Senan and we have a beloved and barmy red and white setter, Snipe.  She who must be obeyed and who has even got an instagram account all to herself.

I took the name from a poem I love called “When I am Old I shall wear purple” by Jenny Joseph.  It encapsulates the eccentric woman I want to be and perhaps I already am.

These will be just general musings and thoughts of the life of a 61 year old woman.   Maybe some recipes, some thoughts on holidays, some fashion, some thoughts on creams and potions, some books I’d recommend or maybe I will just settle on one or a couple of things.  Who knows? I’m just going to get a handle on this and enjoy the fact that my brain is actually working, albeit slowly.

Bren x