Another year nearly over. We made a conscious effort to not be too busy this year, but I'm not sure how well we succeeded. The year seems to have flown by. I've spent the morning going through our photos and trying to select a few to share with you. Whatever happened to the days of having one photo album with all the photos of the kids when they were little??
Anyhow... we kicked off 2019 with a grey, but at least dry, walk on New Year's Day. Céleste scaled everything scalable until her batteries ran out! We had fun exploring the little hidden valleys of the eastern part of the Burren.
February brought a brief spell of snow. Nothing like the proper snow drifts we had in March of 2018 but enough to turn the ground white for a few hours. By mid-morning it had melted lower down but there was still enough for a photo on the higher ground. I love the colours of the Burren in winter, all the many tones of reds and browns.
March brought a visitor via the chimney. I think this is a brown long-eared bat, but as I know next-to-nothing about bat species, don't quote me on that. He (or she) peeped out of the chimney once or twice ("Did you just see something...?" "Was that a...?") then had a little fly around the living room before disappearing back up the chimney, leaving Lana and the two cats dumbfounded/baffled.
Ireland breeds hardy children. I guess they've no choice really, it's either become inured to the cold or don't go outside at all. I took Céleste to Fanore beach to look at the waves after a big storm and nothing would do her but to get her shoes and socks off and go paddling. Lana was very interested in the waves and got a bad case of the zoomies. The follow-up plan was to go home to get our wetsuits then return to the arctic waters but I managed to re-negotiate that to hot chocolates and a movie by the fire. Fortunately...
The moment when you suddenly realise you're in the presence of the next CEO of the Burren Perfumery and that they might decide not to wait until you retire...
April brought us pussy willows by the turlough and lots of wild violets in the woods. We didn't yet know it, but they were early heralds of an exceptional year for wildflowers in the Burren. April also brought our first warm, sunshiny weather. Even after, well, let's just say a long time living here it never ceases to amaze me how Ireland can go from Antarctic to balmy in the space of a few days.
Family photos now get regularly photobombed by a large, overly-excitable labrador. In fact, any sort of family assembly consisting of more than 1 person will get interrupted by Lana if she can muscle her way in: group hugs, sitting on the couch with the cat, getting into the car to go to school... Not jealous at all our dog. Not a bit...
The first gentians appeared in late April/early May and we noticed that there were more than usual around the Perfumery. Normally you only see them in 2s and 3s. Then Céleste and I went for a walk up Black Head and there were drifts of gentians! I've never seen so many in one place. Almost the whole way up to the top we kept coming upon patches with dozens of these deep blue stars.
At the top we went kite flying, a family tradition. Very exhausting. Lana was completely fascinated by the movement and sound of the kite in the air and then by the prospect of a share in the digestive biscuits.
Marmite has been steadily escalating his campaign to take over the Tea Rooms. You know, not that long ago, animals (at least our animals...) were banned from the Tea Rooms. Now Marmite is so friendly with our Tea Room's staff that he waits outside for them to arrive so that he can get his favourite spot in the morning! He miaows to be let in! And he's teaching Lana bad habits, though be fair Lana didn't take much teaching. My dog's loyalty is exactly one scone deep.
I hadn't seen a bee orchid for a few years and all of sudden found a whole pile of them while out walking. Well, 7 or 8 anyway. They're so lovely and surprisingly easy to overlook.
Our digital media team from this summer. They were amazing! This was part of their enforced training, a long hike during which they were rigorously tested on their knowledge of Burren flora and fauna.
We had so many great flower arrangements this year, brought to us by Sarah of the Burren Flower Farm [ @theburrenflowerfarm ], Liz Griffiths [ @griffliz ] and of course, our very own gardener Sarah Casey. It's great to be able to get such beautiful flowers grown locally.
Our animals are... strange.
Wild thyme and lady's bedstraw are two of my favourite scents of the Burren summer. Do you know why it is called lady's bedstraw? It used to be used as a strewing herb to scent and freshen floors and bedding during the middle ages.
Our labrador retriever is, well... different. For one thing she doesn't retrieve unless it really suits her, and for another she's really not that keen on water. Not only that, but she's not happy if any of her pack is in the water either, so when we go swimming or snorkelling, Lana will run up and down the shore in a big dither, whining and making little barks of frustration and then swim out to 'rescue' us. It's hard to know sometimes who's rescuing who, because Lana's idea of rescuing is to clamber up whatever human she reaches first! Then once she's established that everything is okay, she does a quick 180 and heads back to shore!
One of our favourite things at the Perfumery is the amazing artwork that collects on the Tea Room's noticeboard during the summer. We loved this portrait of Marmite that appeared in August.
This year we collaborated with the amazing Dromoland Castle to provide hand made amenities for their VIP suites. They chose our Atlantic Coast scent family as the foundation of the range and then we developed an organic shampoo and conditioner to add to the existing body lotion and castile soap.
This year we did a lot more workshops, including 'The Art of Perfume' where we introduce people to the concepts behind perfumery and 'Make Your Own Perfume' where attendees get to develop their own scents. These workshops are always a lot of fun and we generally overrun by at least an hour as everyone is so into it!
We had a particularly busy year in the Tea Rooms this year and our staff were constantly flat-out peeling, chopping, cooking and baking just trying to keep pace with all our hungry visitors. Hats off to them though - they kept smiling all through the peak season and never lost their sense of humour. It's a good deal quieter now (unsurprisingly!) but we had a few lovely days with the staff of Dromoland and Ard Bia who came down for their respective Christmas lunches.
Our Free Fridays this year were very popular, especially the November one. The little mail order elves were flat out for the following week fulfilling all the orders that came in that weekend. In case you're not aware of them, Free Fridays are special promotions or discounts we (generally, unless we forget!) do on the first Friday of each month on Facebook and Instagram, when we either give away free products with certain purchases or do a discount on a particular range.
This year we decided to extend the Tea Rooms opening season for an extra month. There are still surprising numbers of people around and about the Burren in the winter and it can be hard to find somewhere open to get a hot drink late in the season. As usual, for mid-winter (Dec-Jan-Feb) the Tea Rooms will be open with free tea and coffee, but will not be staffed.
Well, that pretty much wraps it up for 2019. We will have some exciting news in early 2020 - we're bringing out a new perfume - so watch this space. We really, really hoped to have it out this year but a last minute glitch with our bottle manufacturer blew up our schedule. Do check out Julia's recipes in our blog, they're delicious. (I know because I cooked them all for the photos!)
Wishing you all a warm and peaceful holiday season,