All posts by Úna-Minh

Food Trails, Seatrails and Mighty Craic – Experience What Sligo has to offer

It’s very easy to bypass or indeed forget about Sligo. The county that’s tucked just a bit too far up the touristy parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, can seem somewhat out of reach to those doing a whirlwind trip of Ireland.

But after experiencing the flavour of this great county, we’re dying to come back already.

With thanks to Sligo Food Trail, Sligo Tourism and Fáilte Ireland, Mom and I were invited as guests to experience the county like never before (this also coincidently coincided with our Wild Atlantic Way journey, which you can read about here).
Continue reading Food Trails, Seatrails and Mighty Craic – Experience What Sligo has to offer

The Survival Series: Become the next Captain Fantastic at Kippure Estate

Kippure Estate in Co. Wicklow has a rich history that dates back to the 1700s. Originally owned by the Moore family of Kilbride, it was extended into a hunting lodge, along with a farm and Victorian walled garden.

The estate was destroyed by fire in the early 1900s but revamped in the 70s. On the grounds, there are ruins of old huts, standing stones and other fascinating things that hint at the world that once was.

From abseiling down walls, to rock climbing, archery and survival skills, these days there are a huge variety of things that can be done in Kippure Estate (and they even do weddings with accommodation on site!)

Continue reading The Survival Series: Become the next Captain Fantastic at Kippure Estate

Word of Mouth: Escape with a Day of Fabulous Food Trails

This week I was delighted to be invited on a Fabulous Food Trail (FFT) in Dublin city.

Our guide for the day was Eveleen Coyle, founder and lead guide at FFT and a Dublin-native herself.

Winner of the Irish Tourism Industry Awards 2015, I was excited to head on the food tour, despite the drizzling rain. As Alfred Wainwright once said, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!”

A small group of just four, with two more Irish people and a French woman (they can take up to 14 people on a tour), we set off on a looped walk, starting up and around Harcourt Street area.

Continue reading Word of Mouth: Escape with a Day of Fabulous Food Trails

Day Four: Farewell to #AFairLand

The spread was laid out in front of us. Soup, dips, sauces, salads, sweet treats and more, it was a feast for the eyes. Saddened that it was my last day but enthusiastic about the new recipes I’d come away with, I was amazed at how fast the day flew.

Today my fellow Food School students and I were to do most of the work in the kitchen. We were the assemblers, the choppers, and the servers, working with the A Fair Land team to get everything out on time. It sounds like a lot of hard work but really, thanks to a large amount of prep done the day before, it was more like a smooth transition.

Continue reading Day Four: Farewell to #AFairLand

Day Three #AFairLand: All is fair in love and courgettes

I dreamt about courgettes last night. They were marching, yes, marching, through the gates of IMMA and plonking themselves down on the courtyard with their bellies to the sky. It was so bizarre that I actually managed to wake myself up.

Ready for another day at Food School, this morning I headed in with courgettes firmly ingrained on the brain.

What’s lovely, though, is that despite this new obsession with courgettes, I feel like I’m connecting more with the team every day.

Continue reading Day Three #AFairLand: All is fair in love and courgettes

Day Two: #AFairLand Alive and Kicking at IMMA

Day two at A Fair Land began in earnest. The courtyard has yet to fully transform due to technicalities but it’s a definite work-in-progress.

But first, let me talk a bit about the project’s creators: Grizedale Arts.

Based on the historic site of Lawson Park farm in the Lake District in the UK, their site still runs as a productive farm house, with a multifaceted programme of events, projects, residencies and community activity taking place there.


With an aim to develop contemporary art in new directions (especially with an emphasis on food, value for art and resourcefulness), they are trying to work beyond the Romantic and Individualist frameworks that have dominated art history.

What I loved hearing about was how they really wanted to involve the local community in their projects, something that I find some artists do not do or simply don’t think about.


For Grizedale Arts, it’s about bringing projects to a wider audience, concentrating on the process itself rather than the finished product. This to me is a brilliant approach to contemporary art.

The arts organisation worked with three main groups to make A Fair Land happen. The first group is from the Creative Villages of Leytron in Switzerland, that worked on the straw bale Glut Garden. Second, was Coniston that worked on the house building and signage and finally, Sweetwater Foundation from Chicago, a project that is building a new system for a new way of living.

So what was going on today? Well, it was all about serving up and creating food. Kitted out in rather fetching aprons we put together nibbles for mobile vendors who would be selling delightful crackers with courgette pickle and carrot drip.


But why grow courgettes? Why choose them over other vegetables? As proven by their innovations for this particular project: they’re so versatile.

Three core questions lie at the heart of the project: is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it achievable? They also needed to show that this was a product that people could easily use with simple resources.

What Grizedale Arts needed was a food that would easily create a glut so that they had mountains to work with. The fact that they’re continuing to grow in bales of straw is further proof at how manageable they are to grow and maintain as a vegetable.

With all this in mind, I happily continued work as part of the A Fair Land Food School team, prepping dishes for the public who were coming in for lunch.

Carrots and garlic ready for roasting!

Lunch is a three-course affair on communal tables to spark conversation between diners. Food is served at 1pm and there are 20 minutes between courses so whether you’re finished or not, after 20 minutes the food is going to go!

Diners use the same bowl for each course, spoons are made of clay or you can use chopsticks if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.

Booked online, people arrive at IMMA, head to reception and get a cushion for their seat – this is the official ticket for the lunch and people without a cushion will be politely asked to leave or if they simply forgot to collect it, they may do so then.

Also in the courtyard where the meal’s taking place are the mobile vendors and craft makers that the public could partake in. It’s very much a DIY day out.


Brenda, Francesca and Niamh of the A Fair Land kitchen team brought us through the recipes during the day and were very patient with us.

Even though I wasn’t doing any major cooking and more prep, it still brought back my fond memories of Ballymaloe [link]. I have such a love for food and seeing the courgettes growing reminds me both of the three-month course and my home in Kerry with our very own fruit and veg in the garden.

Day three is tomorrow. Will I tire of courgettes? Who knows? But I know that they’re on the dinner table tonight!

For those interested in A Fair Land, you can find out more on the IMMA website here.

I was invited to be a guest at the Food School. This is a sponsored post.

Day One: Courgettes aplenty at IMMA’s #AFairLand Food School

From Friday 12th – Sun 28th August, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is hosting a very intriguing collaboration with Grizedale Arts, with courgettes as their star.

That’s right: courgettes.

Titled A Fair Land, the project looks at how humans’ inherent creativity can be used to develop a system for living, using the simplest of resources.

At a brief glance, the project has eight parts to it ranging from fitness and cooking demos to arts and crafts and a courgette-based lunch.

When I was first briefed about this project, I have to admit I was both amused and sceptical. I mean, how could a three-week courgette-fuelled art installation work? Well today, I found out!

As part of A Fair Land, IMMA is also running a Food School. Working with the main team, people will learn more about the project itself, how the courgettes are grown, harvested and cooked for the special lunch that’s available each day.

Suitable for people of all ages, it’s free to attend, however, you must be available for a full week of sessions (four days). Next week they’re aiming specifically at teens. I was lucky enough to be given a spot on this week’s course!

Working with a 1916 brief and with an aim to rework the residency program at IMMA, Grizedale Arts has come up with this fascinating concept that has vegetables at its core and heart.


No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, those are in fact courgettes growing in the centre of IMMA’s courtyard! Using bales of straw, the courgettes were grown and then transplanted into the bales to continue growing. First, the bales need to be fermented, a process that takes 10 days.

The bales need to be small and then are enhanced with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. The temperature rises to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, creating steam and the bales continue to ferment. Perfect growing material!


Our coordinator for the day was Grizedale Art’s director, Adam Sutherland, who has worked with food since he was a young boy (he grew up on a farm, and was often assigned to the vegetable patch).

He showed us around and gave us a real feel for what A Fair Land was about. Ultimately, it really highlights how people have the ability to create from the most basic of amenities – even if you don’t think you have the skills for it.

Gourd-shaped bowls used for lunch
The button currency that will be used for A Fair Land

Today was to be a pilot day for IMMA and all the staff. Due to a few setbacks, three of us on the Food School course were acting as very willing guinea pigs for the day. The project is open to the public tomorrow.

IMMA’s courtyard will be transformed into a Village where visitors will be able to partake in making everything from bowls to aprons but will also see the harvesting and cooking of crops.

After walking through each aspect of the project, we harvested courgette flowers and brought them back to the kitchen for the team to cook.

Box of courgette flowers

Laying out the table for a communal feast, the smells were just astounding. As willing tasters, we had a magnificent lunch, utilising the magic ingredient: courgettes!

Courgette and coconut soup with Sri-Lankan spices
Pearl Barley with roasted beetroot and courgettes
Stuffed courgette flowers with a courgette, yogurt dip

On Sunday, the two other Food School ladies, Ann and Rachel, and I will be cooking the food for the public.

I’m exhilarated to start day two of the Food School, and so far I’m loving every single moment.

Tickets for the lunch at IMMA cost €10 for three courses and it’s a really great, communal experience. You can book tickets for the lunch here. This is a family-friendly project.

This is a sponsored post.

Word of Mouth: Good value but nothing new at the Old Jameson Distillery

John Jameson first set up shop in the Bow Street distillery in Smithfield, back in 1780. These days, the old distillery offers guided tours and tasting experiences for those who grace its doorsteps.

Just 30 minutes down the road from us, yesterday on a whim, Mr POH and I decided to finally head along to the Jameson Distillery.

Both of us are a fan of the whiskey (in fact it’s my drink of choice on a night out) and we were excited about the prospect of seeing how it all came to be.

Kicking off at 4pm, we loved the modern look the building had, which kept the feeling of the distillery but still felt fresh.

Our tour guide Bill oozed enthusiasm as he greeted us and guided us through the making of whiskey, and how the Jameson blend was made from start to finish.

Did you know that 2% of Jameson produced gets evaporated for the angel’s share when it’s aging? This mightn’t sound like a lot but it’s actually 33,000 bottles a day!

It felt like we were whizzing through the whole thing (or that there wasn’t enough information to go around) and the fact that we could hear a tour bell going off every 15 minutes and a tour behind us, it was somewhat off-putting.

For the final stage of the tour, we were given the opportunity to taste three different drinks for comparison: scotch (Black Label Johnnie Walker), whiskey (Jameson) and American whiskey (Jack Daniels). This was a welcome break from simply following a guide around but you could tell that this was what most people were here for.

In the end, we actually felt quite sorry for Bill because his audience wasn’t as receptive as I’m sure he hoped.

We were smiling and nodding away at what he was saying but he had to pull reactions from many others and a lot of people kept whispering in the background – something we think isn’t really fair on the tour guide.

The nitty gritty:

If you know a bit about whiskey already then you mightn’t get too much out if this tour, however it is excellent value at €14.40 (normally €16, with a 10% discount when booked online). With that price you get to taste three whiskeys, as well as have a free drink at the end of the tour.

We also don’t believe that this tour is really suited for children. They allow children in (obviously they don’t get to taste), but there’s nothing really for them to do – they can’t taste, they can’t really get the tasting cert at the end, and they just get a soft drink after the tour. Hanging around for 45 minutes listening to guide might not be very appealing for them.

That being said, as I mentioned, if you’re someone who knows nothing about whiskey it’s good value with all the booze being added in. We also loved getting our whiskey tasting certificate. Our guide Bill was great but definitely had the enthusiasm to be in a tour experience that was longer and more interactive.

We did enjoy it, and were happy that we did it, but it’s definitely a once-off.

Tours run approximately every 15 minutes from April – October and every 25 minutes from November to March. You can book online and save 10% on adult admission.

Read my Guinness Storehouse review here and my Smithwicks Experience review here.

Top 15 Networking Tips for Introverts

Networking isn’t easy. It can take up a lot of your time and it’s hard to keep pitching over and over again. As introverts, it can also be a grueling process.

I’m a naturally introverted person, which for me means that networking and heading to events can sap a colossal amount of energy out of me. Not only that, but I can be an absolute nervous wreck before and during the event.

“What if say something stupid? What if I make a fool out of myself?”

I’m here to tell you, that it genuinely does get easier.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to help me get along. While I’m in no means an expert, I feel far more confident now about attending events on my own.

Practice your pitch

And practice it out loud. Write out a short pitch and become familiar with the key words that describe your blog or business. Five years ago, journalist Áine Kerr asked me while I was writing an article, “Now how would you describe that to a friend?” I haven’t forgotten that advice since. Keep it simple.

Do some networking even before the event

Has the event a page on social media? Are they using a specific hashtag? Check them out! I’ve found that these can be so useful to get a flavour of the attendees and you can even interact with people before the event has begun. You’ll feel far more comfortable with a person you’ve had an online conversation with when you meet them in person.

Have a goal

Tease out why you are attending. Who do you hope to meet? How many people do you hope to connect with? It’s important to set little goals for yourself – it keeps you on the right track too.

Get there early

It’s far more intimidating to head into a room where groups of people have already established conversations across the room. By being early, you can even set the trend and people may start to surround you.

Eye contact with a firm handshake

Eye contact and a firm but brief handshake is always welcome.  Who wants to handle a dead fish? It sounds so basic, but the amount of people I’ve met who don’t bother looking at you is crazy. It can also come across as rude, and people may think you’re not interested in what they’re saying at all. I certainly know that I’m very put off when the person I’m talking to is scanning the room behind my head (When I’m nervous, my eyes tend to go everywhere, so I usually take a deep breath before I decide introduce myself to someone).

Listen first, then pitch

If you think about it this way, the person who starts talking is actually at a disadvantage because they’re only being half listened to (Their counterpart is usually practising their own pitch in their head). By speaking second, this means that you can still listen and get a breather while the person you’re talking to will be more focused when conversation turns to you. Hat tip to The Muse for this one.

Try and ignore that negative inner voice

“Why would they want to talk to me? What if I mess up?” Believe me when I say that I have learned from fluffing up but it’s never as major as we imagine it to be. Despite what you may think, you need to believe that you have something to offer. Sometimes people don’t want to talk and they’ll move on – that’s ok! It can be difficult but try not to take it personally. Understand that they’re here to network too and you just mightn’t be a fit.

Wear an icebreaker!

If you have a statement piece or something quirky that you can wear, this can be a fantastic icebreaker (Yes, I do own a Pikachu watch). Not only can you have a bit of a joke about it, but it’s something that you’re familiar with and can ease you into conversation.

Remember, you don’t have to talk to everyone.

This was one of the biggest mistakes I used to make. You may feel like this is your only shot at connecting with people but honestly, it’s not. Try to connect with a handful of people and they’ll remember you far more than that person you just spent two seconds with.

Don’t hang with friends all night

While it’s nice to see people that you know, if they’re already aware of your pitch, there’s no need to stay with them all night. Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friendly but remind yourself of the little goals you set yourself.


Physically move

It’s tempting to just stay at a table and not budge. The trick I’ve found, is to move to different groups with a smile and depending on the event, simply ask how they’re doing. “Hi! My name is Úna-Minh”, isn’t a pitch or a sale but it’s a simple introduction that has got me moving. It’s very hard to mess up your own name! “Have you been to this before?” is also a really handy line.

Don’t overdo it with your business cards

While it’s a nice feeling to hand over your business card, it’s good to be selective about who you’re handing them out to. Oftentimes people throw cards in the bin, so make sure you take to the time out to make an impression before you hand the card out. That being said, keep your cards handy where they are within reach and you won’t have to go fumbling in your bag. A card case will keep them free from smudges too.

Have a drink

Don’t be afraid to take a glass of wine if you’re looking to settle your nerves but don’t overdo it – especially if you’re around people you’ve never met before. I always keep a bottle of water in my bag, to keep me hydrated and alert (plus even the motion of taking out a bottle to take a sip, gives me a few seconds to collect my thoughts!).

Step out if you’re feeling overwhelmed

As introverts, it’s natural to position ourselves near an exit for a quick getaway. It’s absolutely ok to go outside or to the bathroom for a quick breather. Take five or ten minutes for yourself. It’s better to go to a safe space and take time to gather your thoughts, rather than be flustered amongst people.

Follow up!

Don’t worry, this doesn’t necessary mean a lunch or a coffee (but it’s certainly worth it if the person really struck you and could help in the future). Simply dropping them an email or a tweet shows that you’ve made an effort to reach out and what’s even better is if you can add in some information that was personal to your conversation.

Points about people

They like to talk about themselves and are often flattered when you’re interested in them. The majority will also reciprocate if you’re showing them sincere interest, are maintaining eye contact, and come across as totally genuine.

Pub Etiquette: Why it’s ok not to get into buying rounds

“Drink anyone? I’ll buy this round”

When it comes to a night out with a big group of friends, there’s a big chance that you will all get stuck into making the long slog back from the bar with several drinks in hand.

Before you’ve even looked at your own wallet or thought about how the night will pan out, you’re already down €25 (at least). Too polite to say “I’m not going to do rounds tonight lads”, you’re already ordering at the bar.

It’s not generousity that ties people to rounds these days – it’s fear.

Why in Ireland are we so concerned about being seen as the black sheep of the group?  Is there really anything wrong with saying “I’m going to pay my own way”? Of course there isn’t.

Here are five valid reasons why it’s ok to not be guilt-tripped into engaging in this social minefield:

People drink at different paces

By buying into rounds you’re essentially forcing people to either drink more slowly or quickly than they want. Not only that, but there are also those who will change up their drinks during the night in favour of more expensive ones when it isn’t their round.

Some people don’t plan on staying out all night.

If your plan is to be home by 12 and you forked up the first round, then the chances are that you’re not going to get your money’s worth back by the end of the night. It’s perfectly ok to say that you’d rather buy your own.

You don’t have a lot of money

And that’s ok. You know how much you can afford and you shouldn’t have to justify to your friends why you can’t afford to buy them all a round. In 2014, the average amount that a person spent on a night out was €81, sometimes even more.

Some people wait until the very end before they offer a round

I’ve heard stories of people who hold back until the end of the night when people have whittled off before they start offering to pay for the next one. It’s a sneaky tactic and very unfair.

Some people don’t drink alcohol

At least one in five adults in Ireland don’t drink and why should they have to pay for other people’s booze? There’s a big price difference between a Coke and a Jameson and Coke.

Instead of judging people as being unsociable or unfair, consider how unfair you’re being by forcing them into a system that they don’t want to be a part of. You don’t know what their financial situation is.

Doing rounds essentially leaves you drinking and spending more than you intended. So don’t be miffed with the friend who doesn’t want to buy into the system.

(Lead image via Wikimedia Commons/Zenior)