It can be incredibly difficult to see the bright side around here these days. Not only has this summer been quite gloomy weather-wise, but the air is thick with defeat and depression over Ireland’s ever-increasing economic woes. Between the nightly news reports on the mortgage crisis and the tabloids’ hysterical headlines about Ireland’s doomed future, it’s hard to stay positive.

As I stated in my last blog post, work has been quite slow and sometimes I feel like I will *never* make it here in Ireland. Though I still enjoy a decent amount of work from back home, it’s been an exhausting, uphill climb to get any work here. But with enough persistence and a positive attitude things do work out sometimes, and I’m happy to announce that I’m now writing restaurant reviews for The Dubliner magazine! The first review is out in tomorrow’s edition.

Make Flower

Part of the reason why I keep pushing forward is because of my friends here. Against all odds, they are making it work and I’m constantly inspired by their unending dedication to succeed in an utterly sh*t marketplace. When I first met my friend Catherine last year, she had recently lost her job and was on a diligent search for a new one. I’m certain she was aware of how difficult it would be in the midst of a terrible recession, but she plugged away and found one within a few months. She’s thriving and recently moved into a bigger rental (complete with a gas cooker, I’m green with envy!) with her partner.

Another friend, Aoife, was a struggling young journalist when I met her at foodie event in early 2010. At the time I think she was writing for one paper on a regular basis but the gig was only for a couple of days a week. I remember having coffee with her one day and she expressed her desire to get a couple more days worth of work on a weekly basis – she knew if she could accomplish this, she’d be well on her way to being comfortable. She’s done that and more; she now writes a weekly column in one of Ireland’s most-read newspapers and is getting consistent work for an online publication.

Make It Work Sinead Aoife

There are others who have gone outside their comfort zone and are doing whatever it takes to make a living. My friend Sinead (who has been featured a great deal in this blog as she is one of the reasons why I moved here in the first place!), who is a single mother, is taking the bus from Collon to Dublin airport sometimes at 4 a.m. to conduct marketing surveys.

Before this, she was a bookkeeper but it wasn’t paying enough, so she took what she could get and she’s not only making the best of it but enjoying her new job. She has an amazingly positive attitude about it, despite the crazy-early hours and long commute. Her sister Aoife recently left her secure marketing job to take a position managing two hotels. Though anything in hospitality is a gamble these days and hotels are closing left and right, she’s passionate about her work and is putting 150% into it every day. Her risky decision has paid off in spades, both for her happiness and for the hotels’ bottom line.

Make Butternut

On days when I’m harassing clients to pay up or checking the bank balance daily to see if the money’s come through, I just want to give up. But when I see my friends’ determination to make it work I’m inspired to keep at it. As they say: If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Cheap and Cheerful Veggie Dinner Additions

Like everyone else, we’re watching our spending around here so cooking at home is key to keeping the food bill down. I’ve actually started to make a game of trying to keep our weekly grocery budget under a certain amount, and I find that when I load up on lots of veggies and make my own dressings and the like, it’s very easy to keep our weekly spend low. I love making a salad of simple rocket and tomato with a lovely basil and yogurt dressing – I swear, it’s so addictive you’ll use it on every salad and even as a dipping sauce for chicken wings or gougons. And butternut squash makes for a really hearty side dish, it’s cheap and filling enough to replace potatoes – it’s good to shake it up a bit!

Make Tomato

Basil Yogurt Dressing

1 garlic clove, peeled

4-5 big spoonfuls of natural yogurt

Handful of fresh basil

Sea salt to taste

If you have a small food processor, simply whizz the garlic clove until minced and then add the rest of the ingredients and blend together. If not, just mince the garlic and basil with a knife and add to the yogurt. Season with salt and let sit in the fridge for an hour.

Roasted Butternut Squash “Salad”

1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into large cubes

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into chunks

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small bag of frozen sweet corn

Handful of fresh basil, chopped

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 200 C. On a large baking tray, lay out the butternut squash and onion in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss together so that the oil and seasonings coat every piece. Place in the oven and bake for 17 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from oven, add the corn and place back in oven for 2 minutes. Remove and put into a large bowl and toss with fresh basil. Season to taste.