Show me the way to go Home…

“I just feel so proud of her.” My strong mother said through her tears as we followed the lone bag-piper as he led my Granny Breslin to her final resting place. The song was called Going Home.

90 years on this earth. 1 month and one Mother’s Day she’s been gone.

Barely 2 days she shared with her own mother, who died through complications with birth. In the last maybe 15 years she kept her close to her heart on a photo pendant my dear uncle John bought for her. My Granny didn’t really talk about her mother much until she developed dementia. But it was the biggest pain and loss in her life, and she really could not wait to be reunited with her.

“She’ll be soon after her” they said when little Margaret Burns’ mother died. But 90 years, 14 children and 101 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren later… and what a legacy, what a life.

In one of our kitchen table mammoth tea and talking sessions my sister said “Think how terrified she must have been every time she was pregnant.” And it’s true…Yet she went through it 14 times, with only two of the younger ones born in hospital, the rest at home. Such a brave and selfless woman who just used her life to raise her children with her simple faith, strong morals and a lot of laughter.

My friends, and others who had never met Granny were reduced to tears at the funeral listening to all she had overcome between Derry and Scotland. Her father, a good man, died when she was 12 and herself and her sister found him when they returned from the cinema.

She was then raised by her beloved Aunt Annie in Derry, where both parents were from. “If he’s meant for you, he’ll come into the fireside.” Annie always said. And my Granda did just that, coming into the house to wait for Annie’s son Paddy every Friday night before they went to the pub. One day he asked Annie could he take Margaret to the ‘pictures.’ “You’ll have to ask her yourself.” Annie replied. My Granny was listening on the stairs, delighted.

They lived in a little house in Creggan, paying up for groceries, battling through the riots of the Troubles, and doing a miraculous job of raising 6 girls and 8 boys without murdering any of them!

I have to say, I’m biased, they’re my aunties and uncles, but the Breslins are an absolute credit to my Granny. I’m just so proud to be part of this family, and watching as they handled themselves, their grown up children, all the visitors with such grace and dignity at the wake and funeral. They are a big loving family of absolute characters, and although it was the saddest of circumstances we were delighted to see each other. The wake at times was an almost joyful occasion, which I thought maybe would have upset my mammy but she said it’s exactly what Granny would have wanted. Some of us (mostly cousins) had a drink after the soup and sandwiches of the funeral (I was the only one to volunteer to show my family up) and now we are hoping to organise a big cousins meet-up at least once a year.

Mother’s Day was yesterday, and the first one my own mother has spent without hers. I knew it would be difficult, so I had the idea of a version of my granny’s beloved photo pendant featuring a wee song my granny in her dementia especially liked to sing.

From here.

One of my favourite stories about my Granny, and it was told at the funeral, highlights her very healthy relationship with God. My auntie Eileen once found a piece of scone far from my Granny’s chair and jam dripping from the Sacred Heart picture. “You fairly knew your own mother!” she accused Jesus. Kind of regularly, actually!

She died on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. “She’s a wee lover” my Mammy said as she left to say her final goodbyes.

It comforts us all to think of the first Mother’s Day for two amazing long-suffering women. After 90 years. That’s love.

 

Margaret Breslin

7th October 1926 – 14th February 2017

Another Blogiversary: 6 Years

I am proud and amazed to note that today January 27 marks the SIXTH Anniversary of this blog, Life, Lyrics and Lemon Cake. I can’t tell you the comfort and connection I have received from writing and getting feedback from my little thoughts and words. Thank you so much for reading, whether you are old or new! It’s meant so much.

I have talked about it before, but I still remember clearly the ‘launch’ of my blog in Melrose Street 2011, my second year at Queen’s University. When my housemates (and besties!) were so supportive and meticulously went through and commented on all the blog posts I had been secretly publishing.

I have never had a ‘niche’ for my topics. It’s made it harder but I just try to be honest and maybe write something that will help someone, or make them think ‘me too.’ So it can be difficult if I’m feeling a bit down or not myself. My lovely good friend Ruth mentioned that I hadn’t been blogging much lately and I voiced my fear that I didn’t want negativity to leak into my posts.  I like to be positive and helpful and I didn’t really feel up to it. I hope that can change soon! The writing sometimes helps in and of itself.

I was so inspired by female bloggers back in the day, and as a person who really wishes to WRITE blogging seemed attractive. I’m glad I did it.

My friend Aisling suggested I choose 6 significant posts. I had a little wander down memory lane. It’s strange as always to see mentions and traces of old flames, for example and I almost have the urge to purge like one does with facebook! But this is all part of my story and perhaps better to be preserved in full. Do you know I have had a few recent requests not to be written about recently too. Ooh the power!

I didn’t put too much thought into this, just trusted my gut and highlighted 6 posts that I feel proud of or are worth a mention again. Also those archives are vast! And a little scary, ha. 6 posts for 6 years!

  1. Traps 

This is an article that almost broke my rule of no ranting. But I think it’s very appropriate in this week with all the amazing feminism examples around us. Just really about not having to be nice to creeps when they have you cornered! I have linked to an excellent article by Daisy Buchanan.

2. Slow Burning: The Electric Michelangelo

I like to read, and therefore write book reviews, and this was one that really stood out last year. I still have a quote pinned to my wall. ‘But sometimes what choice have we? Life conspires to plant us in the funniest of gardens, where the trees need an especial form of tending.’ Beautiful book by Sarah Hall

3. Send Some Happy

There are actually several posts regarding one of my favourite subjects and past times, snail mail! Really enjoyed collaborating with Zoe on this.  See? The friends you make through blogging. Like minded letter writers!

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4. Josh Ritter! On Meeting Your Heroes

Hey, we couldn’t do this without mentioning THE reason for the ‘Lyrics’ in LLL? This made me smile to read how excited I was. Still so proud to be Josh’s biggest fan. I was very proud of my more recent celebration of the main man’s 40th birthday. Keep on rocking, Josh!

5. Ode to 15 Journo Students

An important time in my life, that NCTJ accredited Journalism course that I left my job for in 2013. A lot changed for me that year. I got to test out my writing skills in a different way, I drank an awful lot and I made a few firm friends.

6. Trust Your Gut

A somewhat scary, raw one for me to post. But I had to do it. Some of it maybe is too much, and things have changed a little, but this lesson was a hard one learned over many years of trying and failing to be happy within relationships. I really hope it was able to help someone!

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Are there any posts that have stood out to you? Is there anything you would like to see?

So, lets all have a slice of lemon cake and a coffee the next chance we get, and thank you sincerely from my heart to yours for your support for these 6 years. It means the world to me when people mention my blog in ‘real life’ or even old fashioned comments. And I feel better for having this little corner of the internet and a connection with you.

 

Creativity and Real Magic

A whole month since Christmas today. ‘It’s as far away as ever.’ as the Derry saying goes. I have just finished reading my second book of the year. I was totally blown away and I wanted to share it.

Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) has created a wonder in ‘Big Magic.’ To
be honest, we have it in work and I picked it up a few times but I don’t think I would have chosen it myself. So I would like to thank SongBirdSignBird for the wonderful Christmas present. She wrote inside (my favourite, book inscriptions) that it helped her, and a little birdy (pardon the pun) told me she’s been writing nearly every day since reading it in November. I’m hoping it has that effect on me! I feel like it does.

I’m in an emotional place at the moment, the book made me cry three times when I’m not sure it would have that effect on anyone. But my overwhelming feeling is of RELIEF. No it’s not too late to get back to writing (if I ever started), it’s allowed to be fun, who cares if you’re not successful, do this for you. I can’t even tell you. Self-help books I avoid partly because ironically they are usually full of pressure. You must do this, you must spend this long exercising, how are you going to write if you don’t put in this effort. Big Magic is the opposite of pressure. There’s bits about fear and how that stops people. There’s a permission slip of you’re waiting for one.

Anyway, I think I will give you a few examples. If you ever wanted to write, make art, create anything (which, Gilbert points out, is all of us) I urge you to read this book.

The first part of the book is Courage. We hear of the legacy of a poet named Jack Gilbert (no relation) who once said to a young poet in his class after hearing she wanted to become a writer, ‘Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping that you will say yes.

She writes of the burden of genius and the obsession of getting and staying at ‘the top’. Harper Lee, Gilbert wishes, that right after To Kill a Mockingbird and her Pulitzer, she had ‘churned out five cheap and easy books in a row.’ She could have tricked us all into forgetting, herself into forgetting she was Harper Lee. ‘It would have been a gift to the world. And it would have been a gift to her, as well- to have been able to remain a writer, and to have enjoyed the pleasures and satisfactions of that work for herself. (because in the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience.)

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All my notes. Wow such a book. 

I’m afraid to give too many secrets away so I think you should read it! Yes, some of her ideas about Inspiration and an idea ‘moving on’ to someone else and even the Trickster thing kind of weirded me out but over all the book is a little miracle.

Highlights for me, which I have diligently post-it noted for this occasion are:

Here’s a trick, stop complaining

Day job- there’s no dishonour in having a job. What is dishonourable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.

Done is better than good.

Nobody’s thinking about you.

A beautiful story about perseverance. That made me cry.

An exquisite tale of painting stars on children’s bicycles that had me cry just now like a crazy person while reading aloud to my Mum.

I’m forever changed by this book. I feel the permission, the freedom, the lightness and pressure free chance to write. To make art. Creative Living Beyond Fear as the lovely book boasts.

P.S Thank you so much to Laura and Eoin if you’re reading for really cheering me up on Friday. You’s made my night! Thank you for the blog support 🙂 Means a lot.

suddenly
Yes. Image from here

Cobblestones

As the aeroplane took off, leaving the wondrous city of Prague behind, the two passengers either side of me retrieved journals and new notebooks from cabin luggage and began writing furiously. One happened to be my handsome happy man (who was using my pen) and had an idea for a novel based on the 14th, 15th, 16th Century architecture and churches we had soft-stepped into, open-mouthed in wonder. I had taken to praying for my nearest and dearest in each magnificent structure whereas he had eyes only for the art.

The lady in the pretty Aztec dress and South of Ireland lilt to my right bent over her journal, covering it with her hand any time I as much looked out the window. She crunched an apple and seemed to be filling in diary entries or appointments from several months before. I wondered.

Having no use for my pen, my ideas seeming to have dried up this long, long time I began reading my novel ‘In the Name of Love’ by Patrick Smith. Said handsome man looked up from his backwards notebook (leftie) to comment on how fast I was flicking pages. In this time of confusion and felt stagnation I am soaking up words all the faster in order to arm myself.

The first three days of my six day trip to Prague were spent worrying. Worrying about going back, my career non-starter, my decisions, my still living at home, people’s opinions. I think my friends want to shake me I have been in this boat forever.

I lit candles in the Sedlec Bone Church and took a pew before the Child of Prague. I bantered about teaching and other sensible steps I have no urge to take with my travel partner and tried to see what I wanted to be.

A bone and skull pyramid, plague bodies in Bone Church, Kutna Hora.
A bone and skull pyramid, plague bodies in Bone Church, Kutna Hora.

I gave up and tried to count my blessings which are many, I appreciated the cobbles, the huge Cathedrals and rich cemeteries. I enjoyed the holiday canoodles, the mini apartment we shared with a bathroom each, our balcony with a view of red tiled towers and roofs. We had a go at the Czech cuisine of Beef goulash and Fallow deer and potato dumplings galore. We took a train and a tour, we shared a carriage with a Canadian girl and an Australian couple whose travels were far greater than ours. But willed the loud Australian not to probe on ‘what I did.’

I listened to stories and history and gazed at beautiful things, tried and tested and sipped, smiled and laughed and whispered and hoped. I think I might be coming across self obsessed and whiny and that so isn’t my aim. I’m trying to reawaken my blog and get used to writing again, also keep my eyes and my heart open and hope.

Vysehrad Cemetery
Vysehrad Cemetery

I was sad to leave the beautiful sun soaked cultural Czech Republic and I am craving a return already. So as I tuck my trusty bum bag away until my next trip (!) and smile at my trinkets and photos, I take this last unexpected day before returning to the bookshop where I work. I try to get my thoughts in order and my heart in the right place. I ask you to be patient with me. I’m experiencing and living and slightly restless. I will get there or at least find the words use my talents and enjoy the journey.

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Four Years of Lemon Cake

Yesterday, my little corner of the internet turned 4. Four! So I’m feeling all inspired to breathe some life back into her!  It does NOT seem like three years ago since I ordered those cupcakes to celebrate a year of blogging.

Fourth-Birthday                                                                                                                                                                      photo from here. 

Life Lyrics and Lemoncake has been a great comfort and outlet for me. At the time of taking the plunge I was living with my besties in Melrose Street in Belfast, starting the second semester of second year at University. I was obsessed with blogs, and loved creative and personal writing from Dooce, Ernie Buffalo, Keris and Fluttering Butterflies to name a few. I loved book blogs and insights into inspiring women’s lives. (I’m only noticing the fact that I love blogs by kick ass women and this delights me.) I began on January 27, 2011 but kept it to myself for a month or two until I had published several posts and had something that people could sift through a little. I remember clearly sharing the link on social media one night and A and C sitting on opposite sofas as they did, reading and commenting and supporting me. Happy times. Thanks girls.

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When I feel that a career or even significant writing step is far away, blogging is always a silver thread that connects me to the art, however loosely. I have never felt under pressure by my blog or stressed about producing something. Maybe I should be stricter in order to have a more regular output, but there is something comforting about just being my own boss and only writing about something I feel moved to.

Blogging has allowed me to have interesting conversations, make several great friends in all kinds of surprising ways, take part in features and events such as the current #sendsomehappy with Zoeprose, boosted my confidence at any recognition and allowed me into the exciting and lovely community of bloggers.

blog1image from here.

Sometimes my mammy says to me when I am despairing yet again that my English degree and my Journalism course hasn’t really led me anywhere … that maybe my job isn’t going to be writing, it could be something I do on top of that, and I think I would be happy with that. I just want to make my writing stronger, more regular and more creative. I have this itch to write and achieve something in writing. And if I can continue to make connections with readers and fellow bloggers then that is wonderful and worth it all.

Thank you for reading and supporting me at any stage of these four years, I have a fire in my belly about a new start and lots more words for us to share. I’m on my fourth book of 2015 and have seen some brilliant programmes and films recently so perhaps some reviews at least are in order?

As a present for my fourth birthday, do you want to win some handmade earrings and snail mail paraphernalia? Check out my previous post and my Instagram. #sendsomehappy

A Visitor for the Funky Kitsch Inn

I have been meaning to post this all week, just a little busy so hoping it’s not too late. Wonderful local cupcake company The Kitsch Inn and cake extraordinaries Funky Cakes last year merged to make The Funky Kitsch Inn, which still stocks and creates fabulous and yummy creations but now runs a studio which welcomes birthday parties, workshops, hen do’s, afternoon tea, guest visitors and events where you will learn techniques to create stunning cupcakes and yummy treats.

Just over a week ago they welcomed celebrity of the vintage wedding cake world Tracy James to their studio for several masterclasses. The classes were booked up straight away and a busy, amazing and rewarding week was had by all at The Funky Kitsch Inn.

I wrote this piece about the visit :

Cotton & Crumbs arrive in Derry!

This week saw worldwide renowned ‘Cotton & Crumbs’ cake creator Tracy James host two sold out cake decorating classes in Derry.

Tracy touched down in Northern Ireland for the first time, choosing The Funky Kitsch Inn cake studio in Derry-Londonderry to deliver a series of cake decorating master classes. Her next stop is Barcelona!

 

Cotton & Crumbs is an award winning cake company based in England. Tracy is renowned worldwide for her vintage inspired cake creations; setting the trend in wedding cake and cupcakes. When she isn’t baking the next many –tiered delight she travels the world, teaching the tricks of the trade to cake bakers and hobbyists.

 

Laura Cairns from The Funky Kitsch Inn said ‘Tracy is an inspiration to small cake businesses; the ease with which she has grown her home based business to achieve world wide acclaim is beyond impressive. Having been self taught, she teachers her skills with pride and passion and we are utterly delighted to have her here in Derry.’

 

The group in the Tracy James master class with their handiwork at The Funky Kitsch Inn, Derry. Photo from Cotton and Crumbs.
The group in the Tracy James master class with their handiwork at The Funky Kitsch Inn, Derry. Photo from Cotton and Crumbs.

 

Anticipating the week of specialist cake crafting, a status on The Funky Kitsch Inn Facebook declared, ‘What Tracy doesn’t know about sugar flowers isn’t worth knowing!’

 

Comments from participants of the master classes have been flowing in, The Rowan Tree Cakes said ‘I’m very happy with the results of my course at Funky Kitsch Inn in Derry by fabulous Tracy James from Cotton and Crumbs.’

 

Iliana from The Rowan Tree Cakes, Ballymena commended and thanked both The Funky Kitsch Inn and Tracy James saying it was ‘a fantastic experience.’

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Some of the final creations from the masterclass. Thanks to The Rowan Tree Cakes for photo.
Some of the final creations from the masterclass. Thanks to The Rowan Tree Cakes for photos.

 

She said, ‘I found the class extremely helpful for bakers like me trying to improve skills and give to their cake a modern make over.
I was impressed by the level of detail and finesse that Tracy put into every petal and piping on the cakes.
I definitely took a lot in from this course, it was a refreshing experience overall.’  (The Rowan Tree Cakes )
Check ‘The Funky Kitsch Inn’ Facebook page to see photos of the workshop and finished cakes from the special Cotton and Crumbs master classes. There were lots of regrets from people who missed out on the workshop this time, but keep checking the page for more classes, competitions and maybe Tracy’s return!

 

https://www.facebook.com/thefunkykitschinn

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cotton-Crumbs/47401303755

 

Halloween cupcakes from The Funky Kitsch Inn:

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They also designed my blog’s first anniversary cupcakes that I treated myself to! Two years ago now. Why ever not?!

These still get talked about in my house! Yum!
These still get talked about in my house! Yum!

 

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Thank you very much to my good friend Miss G at Time to Talk Beauty for the nomination AND the snail mail package all in the one day. I am consistently amazed at her dedicated daily blogs about all kinds of beauty related treats and treatment. We met through blogging and became friends on twitter and met up a year ago and haven’t looked back!  Delighted to have been nominated, not least to get me blogging again.

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The rules:

– Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.

– Put the award logo on your blog.

– Answer the ten questions they have set you.

– Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.

– Nominate up to ten new people.

 

Miss G’s Questions for me:

1. Why did you start blogging?

As a reader, I found blogs endlessly exciting and interesting. It’s just reading in a digital kinda way. I also got a great sense of connection and community from blogging. I wanted to scratch my eternal writing itch and be a part of that community.

2. What is your number one beauty product?

Hmm. I’m really not one for beauty products but maybe tinted moisturiser/Garnier BB Cream. I can deal with only that if I have to and it’s my base for any make up I do wear.

3. What do you spend more time on before a night out; hair or make-up?

Probably hair as I’m not great at either but I have a make up routine at least. My hair is a bit wavy and frizzy so it does need some work. You will usually find me persuading my sister or Mammy to plait it or fix it some way for me.

4. Who are your fashion and beauty heroines / muses?

I actually have no idea. Um. I loved Chantry’s character in the recent great ‘What If’ film, she was played by Zoe Kazan (Who kinda looks like Zooey Deschanel). I like a cutsey dress sense. And natural make up. 

5. If you have a favourite film, what is it and why?

Maybe I should reassess, but I think it’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ it’s just a love story, two people meant to be together no matter what crazy stuff they do. In a presumably futuristic world they impulsively ‘erase’ the other from the memory. It needs to be watched at least twice. Wonderful cast and incredibly clever story.

6. What is the best shampoo you’ve ever used?

Probably that ‘spensive Aussie stuff. I love the smell of it! 

7. What is your favourite city?

I’m going to say Edinburgh… Just to stay in Miss G’s good books. The film ‘Midnight in Paris’ makes me crave to see Paris sometime, maybe that would change my mind??

8. False lashes, mascara, or both?

Mascara. Don’t have the patience and dedication for false lashes. I had them once for a wedding and I liked the effect though!

9. What is the best lip balm you’ve used?

I used to love the Body Shop ones when I was younger. In the colourful tubs. Mandarin flavour!

10. What is your current mood?

Hopeful. The best way to be. 

My Nominees

Butterflies and Roses

Girl in the Gloaming

Paper and Salt

Lupus in Flight

Little Grey Box

 

My questions for them:

1. Do you have a make up must-have?

2. How are you at ‘doing hair’ ? Tips?

3. What is the last book you read?

4. What is your favourite dessert?

5. What’s the last song lyric to strike a chord with you?

6. Who would play you in a film about your life?

7. Do you think the theatre is still relevant?

8. What does blogging mean to you?

9. Is social media a blessing or a curse?

10. A telling question, ultimately is what you do for a living important?