Want to be in with a chance to win €10,000?

If you like writing and want to be in with a chance to enter the Powers and Irish Times short story competition this year then read on. The task is to write a short story of no more than 450 words and you could win €10,000 and the chance to get published in an anthology of short stories to appear later this year.

This year’s theme is “Celebrating what truly matters”. It can be about anything within that theme – love, friendship, a special person or place, a moment that changed your life, an episode that mattered, something that makes you happy or sad, furious or philosophical. And the rules specify that the story doesn’t have to hark back to the past but can be about  the here and now, exploring what truly matters to us in 2012.

The closing date for the competition is the 17th of April and the winner will be announced and published by the 26th of May in The Irish Times Magazine. More details here including tips from established writers.


Banana Bread yummm

I have a fruit bowl full of sad looking bananas that need to be used up so I thought I would set myself the challenge of making (for the first time) homemade banana bread. I think it’s one of those things people either love or hate, I love it BUT it has to be moist, preferably sweet and nutty.

So with those prerequisites I turned to the wonderful Avoca cafe cookbook which is really great particularly for baking stuff and there it was – a recipe for banana bread with pecans and my own addition of maple syrup.I am going to roadtest it this weekend so will let you know how it goes. I’m hoping it will turn out like the picture above but hey taste is what matters isn’t it.

Here it is if you fancy trying it out yourself and let me know how you get on!

Avoca Banana Bread

8oz/225g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
110g/4oz caster sugar
1 egg beaten
75ml/3 fl oz sunflower oil
a few drops of vanilla extract or essence
65g/2.5 oz pecan nuts chopped
4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed

1.Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl and stir in the sugar.

2 Mix in the egg, sunflower oil and vanilla but do not beat.

3.Fold in the pecans and mashed bananas, using a fork. Again, do not beat.

4.Spoon into a lined 900g/2lb loaf tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180c/350f/gas mark 4 for 50-60 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and springs back when prodded gently with your finger.

5. Leave in the tin for 10 mins, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

*My addition is to mix in a healthy dollop of maple syrup when mixing the egg and oil as I do this with my brown bread and it adds a lovely aftertaste. Also I’m going to sprinkle some chopped pecans on top.

The South Circular – a bright idea @TheSouthCircula

I have been a big fan of The New Yorker for years since my parents have been subscribing since I was very young. I love reading the short stories and great articles in it so I was really happy to hear that someone had the great idea of producing a quarterly Irish publication featuring four short stories per issue from emerging Irish authors called The South Circular.

There will also be a cover image by a photographer or a designer or an illustrator or a visual creator. There is so much creative talent in Ireland at the moment so this is a great way to showcase it and at €3 per issue a bargain. The first issue is due out on March 26th and can be downloaded here so I’m looking forward to taking a look!

Enjoy the silence in the heart of the city

I have practiced yoga for many years and have found the perfect teacher to enjoy weekly classes with. Not only does it keep me physically fit but it also teaches you how to shut out noise and today living in a world where everything is happening so fast and on a constant basis, this should be mandatory teaching for everyone!

Right in the heart of Dublin city amid all the hustle and bustle I stumbled across The Living Room which describes itself as a ‘place of silence’. Anyone is welcome to drop in between 9am and 3.30pm daily to reflect, rest, read from their library and take refuge from the city.

In addition classes in lunchtime meditation are run between 1 and 2 each day by different teachers where you can meditate and learn new ways of zoning out. Other classes include Nutrition for the Nervous System which teaches ways of eating to increase energy levels and yoga classes for awakening creativity and talks are run regularly combining meditation and conversation. A full timetable and contact details is available on the blog and a suggested donation of €5 per workshop is asked from those who can afford it.

I think it’s a wonderful idea to have a space in the heart of the city which is an oasis of calm – think we all need it sometimes.

Beautiful Kerry

We are just back from spending the long St Patricks weekend in Waterville, Co Kerry in Ireland where we were so lucky to get nice weather so we could get out for long walks and take in the beautiful scenery. It’s a wonderful place to visit with very dramatic scenery and great people!

Above is the view from the tip of Lamb’s Head, you can see The Skelligs to the right of the main island.

This is the view taken from the road between Waterville and Caherdaniel on a clear day.

The view from the other side!

An existential sheep we came across pondering his kingdom!

A lovely sunset falls over Kerry on the way home.

A look at Jonathan Franzen

I read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom last year and I loved it. It was a semi satirical look at the 2000s (refuse to use the term ‘noughties’) following on from The Corrections which was an acerbic look at the 1990s.

Funnily enough I have just finished The Corrections having read them in reverse order and while Freedom jaunts you along and engages you with its complex characters, I found The Corrections tough going. Partly I think this is the problem with novels where the characters are all deeply unlikeable, flawed is acceptable but downright annoying – not so much.

So while there are some huge similarities among the characters in both books and there is no denying that Franzen’s writing is excellent, Freedom just seems more mature and less angry. On the topic of angry, this is something that Franzen apparently does well with suitable vitriol.

His latest rants were focused on Twitter recently which he described as the  “the ultimate irresponsible medium.” Predictably a backlash on Twitter ensued with a hashtag created #jonathanfranzenhates, as a way of documenting the acclaimed authors’ many peeves. So far he’s been playfully cited as hating Tang (“It’s just Orange Juice being dishonest”), cameras (because “real pictures should be painted”), and people who hate Jar Jar Binks (“just to be difficult”).

So it will be interesting to see what the author comes up with next. He is a hugely talented writer who seems to be most comfortable writing about the current zeitgeist so will a lambasting of social media which has come to dominate much of our society be next on the cards with Jar Jar Binks as the central character…?

Yann Tiersen plays Dublin

I went to see French musician Yann Tiersen play in Vicar street last night. If you haven’t heard of him, you have probably heard his music as he only became well known outside France after he did the soundtrack for Amelie and Goodbye Lenin. His songs are certainly distinctive and atmospheric and some of them are very reminscent of Bon Iver (or maybe that’s the other way around).

At stages last night he seamlessly switched between the violin, mandolin, guitar and synthesizer and the result was some hauntingly mellow tracks mixed in with big loud anthems.

While he didnt engage hugely with the crowd, this came across more as an endearing shyness than ego and the music certainly made up for it. Each track was layered with depth and ambience.

I would recommend picking up one of his albums particularly his latest Skyline,  it’s a slow burner to add to your collection and will give you some dreamy escapism.