“Hope In New York City” – A Young Adult Novel By Cynthia G. Neale

Hope in New York City: The Continuing Story of The Irish Dresser by Cynthia G. Neale tells America’s story, through the eyes of a young Irish immigrant, Nora McCabe.

Today I am delighted to introduce you to the second installment in an Irish American trilogy for young adult readers.

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In this book we experience Nora’s struggles, her inner turmoil and homesickness, and her journey towards becoming an American in the midst of prejudice and hardship.

Nora does not merely seek a new land, a roof over her head or a new nationality. She yearns deeply for a familiar sense of home. Through her daily struggles, she learns true belonging exists in the human spirit, and in the love of family and friends.

It is important to remember the Irish Famine, especially for those of us with family ties to the Emerald Isle. This book offers young readers meaningful and realistic insights into the experience of Irish immigrants as they arrived destitute on America’s shores.

Cynthia Neale is a talented writer, who progresses her tale in a lively, lyrical style. I admire her ability to write historical fiction in first person, present tense.

It’s many years since I could be classified as a young adult reader. The now familiar “YA” term didn’t even exist when I was a teenager.  The books of my youth were mainly written in third person, past tense, making this novel the first book written in first person, present tense, I ever read.

At first I found this point of view and tense a little off-putting, but Neale’s mastery of her story, and her skillful descriptions of the dangerous streets of New York, captured my imagination. With each page I turned, she reeled me in with her gripping narrative, and detailed imagery.

I quickly found myself deep within Nora McCabe’s young mind, coming to understand and empathize with her homesickness, yet wishing for her to let the past go. I cheered as she learned to open her heart to her new city, and to connect with her new neighbors.

I may be an old fashioned, traditional reader of 3rd person, past tense historical fiction, but by the end of this book, I came to appreciate the power and urgency of present tense storytelling. I now understand how immediate action and narrative can draw a reader in.  In this book, the dark and dangerous streets of 1840′s New York came to life.  I traveled hand-in-hand with Nora, learning to navigate and survive in her new and perilous world.

I did however have two minor issues with this book. Nora’s last name, McCabe, was not an appropriate choice for a family from County Cork. As an Irish person, I associate the name McCabe with the counties of Ulster rather than Munster.

In addition, the dialogue in this book did not reflect the nuances of Cork people’s conversations.  The word “wee’ was used too frequently. It is an Irish term for the word little, but is seldom used in Cork. It is heard most frequently in the northern counties of Ulster. These minor issues would probably go unnoticed by 99% of readers, but since my entire family hails from County Cork, the characters of this book were not true Corkonians for me.

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The Trilogy:

 

This sequel continues Nora’s saga, which started in The Irish Dresser: A Story of Hope during The Great Hunger.  Nora crawls into an old dresser to escape from Ireland to America and the devastation of the Irish Famine. Inside her dresser on board ship, Nora learns to turn hope into reality.

The third, and most recently published volume in this series, is Norah: The Making of an Irish American Woman in 19th Century New York City. Here our young heroine frees herself from the limitations of poverty, gender and class as she learns to overcome corruption and exploitation.

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A single volume or this complete trilogy would make a perfect Christmas gift for any young adult reader interested in history, their Irish roots or the making of America. I highly recommend these books for young students of Irish and American history.

 

Cynthia G. Neale:

 

Cynthia Neale is an American with Irish ancestry, who frequently travels to Ireland, and is keenly interested in the tragedies and triumphs of the Irish during the Famine. She grew up in Watkins Glen, New York, and now lives in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter.

 

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I love this explanation of her writing style from her official web page:

“I seek to sew my stories together with the unbreakable golden thread of hope.This golden thread oftentimes is a rare and buried treasure that has to be found with great tenacity and prescience.Hope can come lilting and skipping throughout lighthearted and humorous stories, whether they are written for adults or children.”

Wishing Cynthia every success with this wonderful trilogy of Irish American tales.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

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Winners Of The MyIrelandBox Gifts

A big thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s giveaway for two surprise craft boxes from MyIrelandBox.  It was lovely to hear what makes Christmas special for each of you.

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The November craft box was won by:

 

Holly:- “My favorite ornament is always the shamrock, in honor of my Dad.”

 

The December craft box was won by:

 

Karen O’Brien:- “My favourite Christmas trinkets are homemade ornaments (made from bottle corks) dated with the year. Always nice when decorating the tree and seeing how far we have come.”

 

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Congratulations to both winners. I will send e-mails to arrange delivery of your prizes.

A big thanks to everyone who commented and supported this giveaway, and to MyIrelandBox for sponsoring the prizes. Best wishes and happy Christmas to all.

 

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

(Merry Christmas)

 

Irish American Mom

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Kerry Or Irish Apple Cake

Kerry Apple Cake, also known as Irish Apple Cake, is a moist cake with a crunchy top, and can be served cold or warm with chilled cream or custard.

An Irish Apple Cake is technically not a cake at all.  Apple bread is a better description, but I suppose our ancestors assigned the title cake to any baked good with a little bit of precious sugar added.

Known as Kerry Apple Cake in many parts of Ireland, I thought it was high time to share my recipe, especially since we took a lovely photo tour of County Kerry in an earlier blog post this week.

This cake was traditionally cooked in a bastible, a black wrought iron cooking pot.  The bread was covered in the pot and hung over the fire to cook.

I remember my granny’s kitchen in County Cork, with a black iron kettle singing over the fire, or the bastible cooking potatoes or bread.  The day the open fire was replaced with a big range, complete with oven and cooktop, has left an indelible mark on my memory.  On that day I witnessed the end of an era. But that’s a story for another day.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4oz butter
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 or 4 large Granny Smith apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (to sprinkle on top of cake)

The apples I use are Granny Smiths.  If I was in Ireland I would use Bramley cooking apples, the best apples in the world for baking.  But alack and alas I can’t find my favorite cooking apple here in America.

But why are they better than an eating apple, you may ask?  When cooked they retain a lovely tangy flavor, and with heat develop a pefect ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ texture, since they contain more acid and less sugar than other apples.  Granny Smiths are my chosen substitute when baking this cake in America, because they are the tangiest of American apples I can find.

You’ll notice I stuck one small apple into my ingredient shot, just to prove every apple is not created equally.  They come in all the same shapes, but different sizes.  The amount of sliced apples used is key to apple cake success so really check your apple size. Three apples means three large Granny Smiths.  If you can only get small apples, then you will need to use at least six.

Directions:

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a 9-inch round baking pan by spraying with oil or coating with butter. 

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, salt, cloves and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl.  Trust me – you need a big bowl, because once the sliced apples are added you’ll have a large amount of cake mix.

I like to prepare the flour and rub in the butter before I peel and slice my apples.  This avoids adding browning apple slices to the cake.

All-purpose flour works for this recipe, but I prefer cake flour.  This lighter flour produces a softer crusted cake, which better resembles an apple cake made in Ireland.

You’ll notice I don’t use any cinnamon.  I prefer to add a hint of cloves and nutmeg, spices more closely associated with apples in Ireland. If you can’t imagine cooked apples without cinnamon, feel free to toss some in.

When I first came to America I was overwhelmed by the amount of cinnamon used in so many breads and cakes.  It took many years for my taste buds to adjust to apple pie with cinnamon.   Irish apple pies or tarts are made without spice or with a hint of cloves.

Cut the butter into the flour and rub it in using your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. 

I confess I don’t own a pastry cutter.  Throughout my childhood I watched my mom and grannys rubbing butter into flour using their bare hands, so there’s no modernizing me at this stage.  You can’t teach an old horse new tricks.

If you use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, I would increase the amount of butter to 6 ounces.  This helps keep the crust from getting too hard.

Next toss in the sugar and mix it through the flour.

Now it’s time to wash your hands and prepare the apples.  Use a minimum of 3 large apples, but in my opinion, it is hard to have too much apple in this cake, so feel free to add an additional one.

Peel and slice the apples into similar sized pieces. 

My apple slices are about 1/4 inch thick.  Lie each slice flat and cut them into triangular quarters.  The thinner rectangular side slices can be cut in half.

Some cooks like to dice the apples into smaller pieces and add walnuts.  I prefer larger apple slices and as my granny would have said – “It’s far from walnuts you were reared.”

Toss the apples into the flour mixture and combine them thoroughly.

My advice is to work quickly because apples turn brown pretty fast.  The faster they are covered in flour mixture the better.  You can see how my apples are beginning to go a little brown at the edges, but I did have to pause to take photos.

Beat the eggs and add a dash of milk.  Add to the apples and flour and combine well with a large spoon. 

Add more milk as needed to fully moisten the flour.  The result is a pretty sticky dough.

Transfer the dough into the prepared cake pan and flatten the top surface using the back of a large spoon.

I use a 9-inch round pan.  An 8-inch round pan will simply yield a taller cake.  However, moving up to a 10-inch round pan is not advised.  With these specific ingredient ratios, the cake would be way too flat.

Next comes the final touch for a crispy top layer.

Sprinkle two tablespoons of sugar over the top of the cake. 

In Ireland I recommend using caster sugar, but regular American sugar is just perfect.  Regular Irish sugar is far grainier than the American variety.

Bake the cake in the preheated 375 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes.  A toothpick or knife will come out clean when it is cooked and the top will be a lovely golden brown.

Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire wrack to finish cooling.

I love to see the slices of apple peeping through the top layer.  Just yummy!

My family love this cake served still slightly warm.  Lovely with butter melting on top, or a dollop of cream or smothered in custard, you’ll certainly be licking your fingers and asking for seconds.

Hope you all enjoy this little taste of rural Ireland.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

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Handmade Christmas Angel Giveaway

Angels are beloved symbols of the Christmas season both in Ireland and America.  Messengers of peace, they remind us to treasure family and friends and that unhurried moments are at the heart of the season.

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Angels tell us to “be not afraid”, reminding us to pause and experience the true gifts of Christmas – love, peace, and togetherness.

Angels remind me how precious time is and how loving memories endure.  They help me remember my angels who have shared in my celebrations and family traditions through my forty-something years of life.  Some of my angels are no longer with me physically, but each time I see an angel on my Christmas tree I whisper a prayer of gratitude to my departed loved ones.

Gold Trimmed Christmas Crochet Angel

And so I love to adorn my Christmas tree with handmade crochet angels.  Each year I make a new angel to add to my Christmas host.  They are a decorative celebration of the spirit of the season and a new family tradition that will help my children tell our family tale in years to come.

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The Giveaway:

 

This year I crocheted three angels for a giveaway from Irish American Mom.  To enter just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Tuesday December 18th.  Tell us what angels mean for you at Christmas time.

A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you if you win.  Your e-mail won’t be published or shared, just used to contact you should you win.

 

The winner will be announced on Tuesday December 18th, so I can pop the angels in the mail to reach the winner in time for Christmas.

And so -

 

May you always walk in sunshine.

May you never want for more.

May Irish angels rest their wings

Right beside your door.

- Old Irish Blessing

 

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

(Merry Christmas)

 

Irish American Mom

 

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Handmade Cards – Perfect For The Holidays

Handmade Christmas cards are a perfect way to let friends and family know you are thinking of them this holiday season.  Today I thought I might introduce you to the beautiful handiwork of one of my most loyal readers.

Believe it or not, her name is Mairead (rhymes with parade) also.  She is an Irish-born girl from Arklow, Co. Wicklow, who just like me moved across the Atlantic.  She now calls Atlanta, Georgia home.

When Mairead moved stateside she fell in love with the amazing craft stores located far and wide across this land.  Her imagination flourished as she roamed the endless aisles of beads, ribbons, and threads of every shade under the sun.  Soon she unleashed her creativity, designing custom-made greeting cards.

One of her customers enthusiastically informed her:

“Mairead, I wanted to thank you for the cards you made for my

wife’s 59th birthday. Of the 59 cards she received from me yours

were the hit and she is thinking of having them framed into a

display piece. Your cards stood out from the rest and I buy cards

from the very best commercial sources.” – Stan S., New York

 

My husband remembers my birthday because our kids remind him whose birthday is next in our house, but this man’s lucky wife received 59 cards with some of them customized lovingly by Mairead.  WOW!!  And this year she received 60 cards to celebrate her 60th birthday.

 

“These aren’t just cards, they are works of fine art! The attention

to detail and intricacy of the designs is truly breathtaking — they

are each one of a kind. I haven’t been able to find finer handmade

cards anywhere, and I will keep coming back again and again for

all my special card needs.” – Sandra, Seattle, WA

 

As I examined Mairead’s beautiful handiwork, I grew intrigued to learn her Irish American immigrant tale.  Here are some of Mairead’s answers to an e-mail interview I sent:

 

Q:  Why did you leave Ireland?

A:  I met my soul mate (a Californian) and married him in 2005. Then I came to America to begin our married life together.

Q:  In which state and city are you living now? What do you like about living there?

Atlanta, Georgia is now home.   I love it here for a variety of reasons

  • The very friendly locals (strangers will often chat to you on the bus).
  • Atlanta’s diverse communities and international restaurants.
  • Lots of trees everywhere.
  • Great shopping (reasonable prices compared to Ireland).
  • The rich history – I live in the city that is the birthplace of Martin Luther King and the home of Coca-Cola.

 

 

Q:  What did you find difficult about transitioning to life in America?

  • The heat of “Hotlanta”! …and the associated bugs; cockroaches, mosquitos etc.
  • People not being able to pronounce my name.
  • Learning to use different money, with notes that all look the same!
  • Not being familiar with the culture of tipping.

 

Q:  What do you miss about Ireland?

A:  Lots of things….

  • Tayto… and good chocolate, for starters :)
  • Irish bread
  • Wexford Strawberries
  • Chipper chips with salt and vinegar
  • Rainbows
  • Seeing children playing on freely the street without needing constant watching.
  • The Luas, double decker buses, trains, walking and generally having options when it comes to public transport
  • Green grass all year long
  • Celsius; I just don’t like Fahrenheit
  • Shopping outings in “town” (Henry Street, Mary Street, the Ilac Centre, Grafton Street, the Stephen’s Green Centre).

 

Mairead – Guaranteed Irish

Q:  If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?

It would depend a lot on their circumstances. If it was someone with similar circumstances to mine I would tell them to remember there are good things and bad things about both countries, to expect the culture shock and take it one day at a time.

Q:  Tell us about your work for Ireland Reaching Out?

A: I represent Ireland Reaching Out in Georgia by informing local groups and individuals about the project. I put them in touch with volunteers in Ireland who are available to assist them. I recently visited a Scottish festival here and made connections to people with an interest in Ulster-Scots heritage. My role is that of promoting IrelandXO however I can!

 

Q: Please tell us about your day job working for the Carter Center?

A:  For the last 7 years, I’ve had the privilege of calling President Carter “my boss”. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by President and Mrs. Carter to advance peace and health worldwide. The Center is located in a 37-acre park, not far from downtown Atlanta.

Two days per week, I assist the various departments of the center with administrative work. This often involves working on mailings, telephone calls, preparing for events, compiling statistics for reports, editing documents and database work. I also work at special events such as meetings and lectures, welcoming guests and providing them with information and assistance.

I enjoy the international spirit of the Center and the interesting people I meet. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to support and witness the many accomplishments of the Center, first-hand.

 

 

A big thanks to Mairead for sharing her story with us today.  If you would like to tap into her creative genius and design the perfect customized greeting card for a loved one, then feel free to contact her through her website, Handmade by Mairead.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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