Monday, May 23, 2016

Saving money and the planet with IKEA


It's time for a final update on my Live Lagom challenge with IKEA. 

Back in December last year I was invited to take part in a sustainability project run by IKEA. It involved (responsibly *cough*) shopping for good in their store that would help me and my family to save money and save the planet by taking little steps on a journey towards sustainability. This is me with my haul. Spoilt brat I know.


I tried to focus on energy saving and making the home a warm and cosy place to be. Armed with rugs, duvets, lightbulbs, and state of the art cooking equipment it wasn't hard to do.


This is the shame of my bedroom before the project began. New bedding and green plants transformed the space from mess to rest. 

BEFORE


AFTER




Sidelights with energy saving LED lightbulbs are now used all over the house, as well as extension leads that can be turned off easily with the flick of a switch so power saving mode isn't continually used, and rechargeable batteries. Heating was also turned down and cooking times reduced significantly (by as much as 80% in fact). I haven't managed to calculate the exact savings due to the temperature of different months and the fact that I also changed to a cheaper supplier (one of the knock on effects of the project).

Another saving I've made is switching my bin collection from every two weeks to - wait for it - every 2 months, simply by being more organised and recycling properly.

However one of the major bonus for me was the aesthetic 'hygae' that the project brought. My home is now simply a cosier, nicer place to be. And, amazingly for me, is more organised too.



The kids are fully on board, running around shouting at each other for leaving lights on and having a real understanding of why a rechargeable battery is so much better than a throw-away-pollute-the-planet one. 

And we've ever started planting stuff. My favourite, Sweet Pea is currently taking root, and tomatoes, basil and parsley are all well under way. I have to say it's a little addictive. 


Looking back on all those baby steps I'd say we've come a long way with zero pain and lots of pleasure along the way. If you get a chance to Live Lagom a little I'd highly recommend you embrace it. There are tons of tips on Hubbub who are IKEAs charity partners on the mission. 


Enjoy and adjo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Great Western Greenway - Ireland's secret hidden gem



Now I say secret because as far as I was aware it was.

But like anything, once you know about something you start hearing more and more about it. And everything I heard about the Greenway was good. So last weekend we took the plunge and headed West.

The Great Western Greenway is in Mayo on the West of Ireland. It runs the 42k from Achill Sound to Westport on what used to be an old Victorian railway line. It is now a perfect cycle \ walking path taking in some unbelievable views along the way. Sweeping bays give way to patchwork fields with old stone walls and lazy rivers.




It was, in parts, indescribably beautiful, but there are only so many times you can stop to take out your camera, and anyway, it never does quite do justice to the vast views and echoing silence.





The route takes you past Newport and Mulranny and offers a number of pitstops along the way. And it's not just for the fit and healthy either. With bike shops offering you transport to the starting point of your choice, and pick ups if you happen to succumb to the pints of ice cold Bulmers in the blistering sunshine - it seems even Hen parties have been tempted along (with varying degrees of success so our driver informed us).

The Greenway is broken down into stages and you can go in either direction, or even there and back if you're feeling particularly energetic.


We bused it out to Achill, were given our bikes and then headed off to Mulranny 13k away. From there it's 18k to Newport, and then 11k back to Westport - leaving just time to shower, change and head out to dine with the locals and sit in on a session in Matt Molloys.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather, but I can definitely see why all the tourists flock to the West. There are almost too many pubs to choose from, world class food and the warmest of welcomes. All in all the most perfect weekend break you could hope for.

And best of all? After cycling 42k the booze and food are guilt free. Now you can't really argue with that.

Useful links:
Accomodation: Woodside Lodge B&B - perfect location, fabulous hosts, gorgeous house
Bike Rental: Clew Bay Bikes - bus from Westport to Achill and bike hire just €25
Restaurant: Sage - widely regarded as the best in town. The seafood is a must. 
Bars: Matt Molloys - regular sessions with local musicians, and barmen that remember your order from the night before.





Monday, April 18, 2016

21 random reasons to feel guilty (and 1 big one not to)

Motherhood and guilt. They seem to go hand in hand. From the first moment you realise you are pregnant and then remember that you got really pissed at that wedding two weeks ago - the guilt begins.

There's a never ending ebb and flow to it, and nothing, NOTHING, is too insignificant to bring it on.

You don't do crafts with them because you can't bear the mess.

You didn't sign them up to after-school sports because you couldn't face yet another collection time.

You go to work so are depriving them of the joys of a stay at home mum.

You don't go to work so are depriving them of a strong role model.

You're too shouty.

And grumpy.

And cross.

You feed them pasta every day because that's all they'll eat.

They never learnt guitar.

They watch too much TV.

And spend too much time on screens.

Which you aren't properly monitoring.

Because you spend too much time on screens.

You went out last night.

You can't afford to bring them on holiday.

You spoil them too much.

But you don't play with them enough.

You're too impatient.

Your house is too small.

You don't bake.


On and on and on it goes, an endless cycle in your head. Each age and stage brings different triggers but it never, ever abates.

Sometimes though, something big happens that puts all the other little things in perspective. And surprisingly it can change that never-ending carousel of guilt.

For me it came over two years ago when I was separating from their dad, a thing so momentous for a child that as a parent you could get buried under the weight of the guilt. Everything your children do and feel and say suddenly gets referred back to that fact, so that it becomes the go-to query for all of their behaviour. Is that why they are acting up \ angry \ withdrawn \ anxious \ tearful? Cue guilt-fest.

Of course you could beat yourself up with it forever if you wanted to, but a wise friend told me right at the start of my journey not to bother.

She impressed upon me that as long as children have unconditional love and are supported and hugged and smothered in that love, then they will be fine.

So you can be stressed and grumpy and shouty at times, you can be separated or unemployed or too goddamn tired to smile, but then, when you all cuddle up on the sofa and spend the next
20 minutes looking into each others eyes trying to come up with something bigger than all the grains of sand on every beach in the universe to explain how much you love each other - then you realise that they will be ok. Because you know you love them. And they know you love them.

And nothing else is really that important after all.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spreading the Joy

Sometimes all people need in order to get on with their lives is a helping hand, a leg up, a push in the right direction.

I know because I've been there myself - not in a life or death situation, but in enough strife that had I not had that support I might have gone under.

Oxfam are well aware of this too. Why? Because they have been helping people help themselves for decades. Since 1942 in fact. That's a whole lot of knowledge and expertise earned.

One of their wonderful campaigns at the moment is empowering women in Bangladesh through chilli farming - teaching them to make a living for themselves. Sounds so simple, and really it is. That's the beauty of it.

Let me introduce you to Joygun. Not only does she have the best name in the world ever, she is also a formidable force in her own right.

Just look at that smile - lives up to her awesome name right?


Joygun is a member of the chilli producer group, and has received training on growing and selling chillies. Chilli farming has given her confidence and self-belief and her husband now recognises the important contribution she makes to the household income.

She is also a vice president of the local (CBO) community-based organisation. In her own words she says -

“I’ve benefited a lot from growing chillies. I now eat better than I used to before. I wouldn’t be able to eat before but I’m getting good quality food now. I now have some disposable income to spend on things like chicken and fish.” 

'I wouldn't have been able to eat before'.

Think about that for a moment. As a mother you can bet that Joygun made sure her children got whatever food was available - how wonderful to turn that story into such a powerful one.



Oxfam says:
This area in Bangladesh is now famous for producing chillies of the right colour, taste, heat and size for many Bangladeshis across the country. Oxfam has helped the farmers to form producer groups which pool their resources (such as labour and land), and their chillies.

So how can we help more women like Joygun?

Here's what a regular donation can do:

€9 can provide a family with manure, organic fertiliser and training in eco-friendly farming techniques.
€24 can provide a family with the tools, seeds and training to set up an allotment, helping them to feed themselves.

Empowering people to help themselves is key to a sustained solution. A regular gift to Oxfam changes lives around the world. By giving a monthly donation you can help transform whole communities, for good.

You can donate here. Please think about it.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The most beautiful driving routes in Ireland

It's official! Ireland's most beautiful drive has been announced via public vote by Chill.ie.

But not only that - they've put together a really and truly lovely free e-book for you, that not only announces the winner but gives lots of other popular and memorable drives from all over Ireland too.

But not only that - yours truly has managed to get featured with my favourite route (surprise, surprise it's Wicklow - but they don't call it the Garden of Ireland for nothing).

Here's how it looks - and having had a sneak peak I can tell you that all the others are equally as impressive.


To see the drive which was voted in at number one, plus all the other beautiful suggestions, pop over to Chill.ie for your totally free copy.



Disclosure: This is post is in collaboration with Chill.ie

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Girls Summer Dress Wishlist - with House of Fraser


The older they get, they more opinions they have. Fact.

With my daughter now 11 (gulp), gone are the days of me picking out my favourite dresses in my favourite colours and assuming she will love them. Nowadays it's more of a team effort - she picks and I pay. Clothes need to be the right shape, the right feel, look good, but not be restrictive for her climbing trees or lazing around on the sofa days. It's a tough gig.

But with Summer slowly easing it's way around the corner it's time to start looking at some holiday dresses again. Joy!

With her. (Reduced joy rating).

Browsing through House of Fraser shows there are plenty of beauts on offer though - and happily she agrees.

Here are our top picks - but if you're lucky enough to own a child with less opinions on what she will and won't wear then the options are endless. Just pop over to House of Fraser and enjoy a look around.


How gorgeous are those?

Oh to be 11 again!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All words, opinions and selections remain my own. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How to be happy.

I've been pondering a lot lately on how we create our own reality. I'm not convinced I have the whole thing down yet, but increasingly I'm coming to believe that what's happening in our heads counts for more than what's happening in our lives when it comes to being happy.

I've often had fleeting thoughts about this, but no real cause to go any further with it. When I lost my job that changed. I naturally enough had the expected crash, but after a few tears and a few hugs I realised that actually I was very lucky to have lots of support and that I needed to just get back out there - even if the confidence was lacking .

A day or so later a rather lovely someone gave me this book.

You are a Badass.
How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life. 

It's the sort of thing I'd walk past in a bookshop, or possibly even smirk at if I caught someone reading it on a train. But as it turned out it was the perfect book given at the perfect time. It preached about positivity, and talked about how by believing something great is going to happen it really can. It also told me how much of a badass I really am.

No smirking at the back please.

If we radiate doom and gloom then that is what the universe will give back to us. If we high five our way through life then all that positivity comes right back into our open hands.

Last week I read this open letter from one young millennial woman to another. One had lost her job and was basically whining about how unfair things were for her (whilst asking the internet for free handouts), and the other was firmly putting her in her place. It was a great lesson in how two people can have two very different views on a similar life problem, and how those views go on to shape their future.

Anyway. Since my own job loss I have been picking up freelance work wherever I can, and getting by while I look for something more permanent. Sometimes I'm flat-out and badassing my way through it all. Sometimes my inbox is devoid of all life forms and the belief wavers. But generally I'd like to think I'm coping pretty well.

Which gets me to thinking... What makes one person able to move through the bad stuff while staying positive when others just can't seem to manage it?

What makes one person generally happy and content and another person miserable in life?
What about those glass half empty people who find it hard to see that their drink isn't yet finished? Should they just pull themselves together, step up and stop complaining?

Or is it much harder for some people to turn their thoughts around? And if so - why? Where they born that way? Is it because of their upbringing? Or is it their own fault that the rainclouds follow them everywhere?

These are the questions that are a little more difficult to answer.

A study carried out in the US in the 70's saw researchers interview State Lottery winners, and compared them with non-winners and with people who had suffered a terrible accident that left them paraplegic or quadriplegic. Each group answered a series of questions aimed at measuring their happiness level.


"The study found that the overall happiness levels of lottery winners spiked when they won, but returned to pre-winning levels after just a few months. In terms of overall happiness, the lottery winners were not significantly happier than the non-winners. The accident victims were slightly less happy, but not by much. The study showed that most people have a set level of happiness and that even after life-changing events, people tend to return to that set point."
Forbes.

Basically it's a bit like retail therapy - it gives you a quick boost but ultimately doesn't make you any happier in the long run. Similarly with the bad stuff - like losing your job - it knocks you sideways for a while but mostly you get back to where you were happiness-wise.

So if that's the case, and outside factors don't really make much of a difference to our happiness, then the thing we really need to work on is the internal stuff - to make our brains create positive outlooks. Depending on where you lie on the happiness scale that could be through meditation, yoga, counselling, running, CBT, the odd self-help book or, if you really must, some inspirational quotes. 



Because I'm pretty sure you really can become a happy badass - if you just train your brain to believe it.



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