Sunday, May 28, 2017

Free Runners

My last pair of running runners were bought waaay back in September 2014, so I've been well overdue a new pair for a long time.

So when I was offered a new pair of Nike trainers by the lovely people at Millets Sports, I hop, skipped and jumped at the chance.


My previous pair were pre-tested on my feet and gait in the store, so were a perfect fit and we were very happy together for many years.

These ones were to picked online - and there were plenty to choose from. After looking through the selection I finally chose the Nike Free Runners - aesthetically pleasing and similar to the ones my 12 year old daughter loves and covets.


The trainers are really lightweight and extremely comfortable - they're a perfect crossover between a leisure and sports trainer. So far I've worn them with jeans, to yoga, hiking, walking and everything in between. I've done a couple of runs in them, and they mimic a supported barefoot running experience. It's nice in that they are so lightweight, however after years of much more cushioned trainers it's taking me a little while to get used to.


The main pros are that they are: Flexible. Stylish. Comfortable. Breathable. Lightweight.
The main con is that if you're not used to this type of design it may take a little while to get used to.

No matter. They have hardly left my feet since. And no, my daughter will not getting them!


Disclosure: I was kindly sent a pair of Nike trainers to review. However, all opinions, words and images are my own. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hiking boots and Camino trails

It's funny what giving up alcohol will make you do.

This year, instead of lazing by a pool or hitting the beach for my summer holiday, I'll be trekking 120k across Northern Spain - Bilbao to Santander, as part of the famous Camino, an ancient pilgrim route that stretches across Europe.

There are a whole host of reasons people do the Camino. Personal struggles, a fitness challenge, the fact that it's cheap, a way to meet new people... However, no matter who you are or what the reason for doing it is, one piece of advice is always consistent - get yourself a decent pair of boots.

There are stories of weeping blisters and crying men at every stop, and you really don't want to be one of the poor unfortunates that other people's horror stories going home are built around.

And so to my beautiful new Brashers from Millets online.



I was kindly sent out a pair of Brasher Country Trekker's to test out ahead of my trip in July. Perfect timing for my training which officially began with hike #1 last weekend.

We took an easy 2.5 hour trek up through the back of Powerscourt Waterfall. Cosy stony trails making way to vast expanses of mountain wilderness.

Hiking boots and Camino trails

Hiking boots and Camino trails




The joy.

I bounced along the rocky paths in total comfort. High grade hiking socks and awesome boots ahave been given the firm thumbs up. They're light-weight, hardy, hugely comfortable and just a little bit gorgeous.

Hiking boots and Camino trails

Is it weird to fall in love with a pair of hiking boots?

Ok don't answer that.


Disclosure: I was sent these Brasher hiking boots in exchange for a review. All thoughts, opinions and images are my own. And yes, I really do love them. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Sea

My love affair with the sea started long ago.


I grew up just a 5 minute walk from the shore, and although I don't remember those toddler trips to the beach with my mother, I do know that the sea air seeped into my being and became part of my soul. So much so, that if I'm ever away from it for too long I have an ache in my bones and a longing in my heart to return to it's vast embrace.

I have early memories of sunny days and soft sands at Brittas Bay. The thrill of my parents giving the nod that yes, we were going. The race around the house for togs and towels, while my mother made the picnic to see us through the day. White bread sandwiches, boiled eggs, crisps, biscuits and the all important flask of coffee.

Although we lived beside the sea, going to Brittas brought extra excitement. The hot sand that squeaked under bare feet, the huge dunes that we would spend long hours running up and tumbling down, the seashore that was warm and shallow and inviting - it was a million miles from our own stoney beach with dangerous dips and crashing waves, even if it was just a thirty minute drive from our door.

We would spend the entire day roaming through long reeds, and in and out of the twinkling water. Until, skin prickled with heat and sun, our parents would collect us up and lead us back to the car, all tanned limbs and sea sprayed hair.

Aged eleven I did a local swimming challenge - 1 mile in the sea in exchange for a medal and bragging rights forever more. I remember the waves engulfing me and salty water filling my gasping mouth. I remember wondering whether I'd make it to the finish that seemed as far away as adulthood. I remember finally reaching the end, and how on the way back home my dad told every person we met what I'd done. Proud as punch.

My childhood summers were spent in a constant flow up and down to the beach, just like the tide. Whole days were spent jumping and diving off rocks, diving boards and bridges into the welcoming sea. The deep intake before launching off the edge, the hard smack of entry, the shock of freezing water as it engulfed body and head, the bubbles streaming past open eyes, before finally coming up for air.

Then swimming back in to do it all over again. And again. And again.


My early adulthood was spent travelling. In Mexico I languished in the turquoise water, looking up at the sky as I drifted on the gentle waves. A red bandana, tied around my tanned wrist cut through the infinite blues. I lost my heart to the incredible sparking seas of Australia - sometimes tinged with the possible danger of sharks, saltwater crocs and jellyfish. The picture postcard water of Thailand didn't seem real, I would spend long hours on a hammock staring into it. Glowing blues and greens carrying brightly coloured wooden boats. Like the entire country was bathed in a chrome filter. HD views for all. When the storm hit we dashed into the sea, escaping the stinging rain beating our faces by diving under the huge waves. Water on water. I'm not sure I ever felt so alive.

New Zealand's seas were wild and grey and reminded me of home. I went swimming with dolphins off the coast of KaiKoura, and the depths of the dark water around me sent a rush of fear through my veins. The dolphins raced up and past us, swerving and ducking at the last minute so we didn't collide. It felt like being routed to the middle of a motorway while cars flew at you in every direction.

Coming back to Ireland to settle down saw me spending some time living inland. There was a river and a lake in the village, but no ocean at the end of the road. I stayed for a time but it never felt quite right. When I finally moved back to seaside living it was like a deep exhale.

Now I take my own children down to my beloved sea. We walk barefooted through the town, down to the stony grey shore. Sometimes I'll swim, sometimes I'll just breath it in, so as to remind my bones that it's still in touching distance.


Last year I made a pact to take to the freezing water at least once a month for a full year. Every swim was a cold, invigorating, life affirming, de-stressing dash of happiness. Each time it's as if the person you trust most in the world is telling you that everything will be ok, and sure what are you worrying about that for anyway? The best and cheapest therapy in the world.

Every coast, every season, every time of day brings a different sea view, a different mood, a different gift.

Sea love. A lifetime of wonder.






Friday, March 24, 2017

Parenting 101: Tweens



You know that saying 'Solutions appear when you start looking for answers'?

No really, do you? Because it's very possible that I just made it up. But I've decided it's true, so I'll take the credit if nobody else already has.

Anyway, we've been coasting along for awhile now with the usual arguments, homework, play, cuddles, fights, tantrums and laughter that sum up most families daily lives. It's been fine. (Apart from the boys fighting which is still driving me completely bonkers). I've been busy. They've been doing their thing. Hamster wheel, Life etc etc.

And then there came a moment last week when the wheels fell off and I realised that perhaps we weren't coasting after all. Perhaps there was a lot going on behind those gorgeous faces that I hadn't stopped long enough to find out about.

Which got me thinking.

Which got me looking.

And lo-and-behold - the answers started appearing.

Online friends shared articles that I previously would have skipped past, but this time took the time to read.

Andrea from Office Mum shared a post entitled The Dangers of the Good Child which pushed a hovering penny down, and helped me instigate a conversation with the eldest about how it was ok not to be perfect all the time. Sometimes we don't realise the pressure they are putting themselves under to help shield us from any more life stresses. But who doesn't need a good ol' tantrum every now and then. It's good to be given permission to have an off day.

Marianne from Mari's World shared a post called Not every child is an A grade student. Why we must not let B/C/D be shameful. Again, it tapped into beliefs and concerns I've been having. Comparison with classmates and siblings can lead to feelings of insecurity and worthlessness. We need to nurture their individual talents and not keep raising the bar for grades only. At the same time they need us to focus our attention on them when and where they need it most.

Finally, Rachel from Well Worn Whisk shared a post Why I Stopped Punishing My Kids: Replacing Punishment with Connection. It's full of thought-provoking ideas and new ways to parent. 

I could have written this (but didn't):

"On the days when my kids are fighting and crying the most, I can almost always look in the mirror and realize I haven’t stopped and sat down and looked them in the face while they talk to me. I haven’t put my arm around them and sniffed their heads while they tell me their dream from the night before in every detail from start to finish. All day I’ve been saying, “Just a minute” or only half listening to what they’re saying while I’m checking Facebook, answering emails, or loading the dishwasher without even looking at them."

(The irony of reading this on Facebook while my kids got ready for school is not lost on me). 

In the midst of all these lightening bolts I suddenly realised that I now have not 1, not 2, but 3 tweens. Each of their needs are different, but at 8,10 and 12 they fit squarely in the tween bracket - that middle ground between young child and teen that throws up a whole heap of emotional wants and needs.

So I'm trying some new approaches. We're focusing on 3 family rules to start with: No shouting. No hitting. No punishments.

And one 'just for me' rule: Individual time with them each day - even if it's only 5 minutes.

I can already hear the laughter ricocheting around the ether of the internet. And yes, I may be back tomorrow to say it hasn't worked out. But we'll keep trying. And really that's what parenting is all about, isn't it? Coasting the good parts, hitting the bumps, looking for help, and then trying again, again.





Sunday, March 12, 2017

Snapshot

I'm having a bit of a blog lull at the moment. The usual life, work, kids juggle is as real as ever, but those moments of snatched peace are now being filled with novel writing rather than mindless mind dumps on here. What I've discovered is that a little every day is far more productive than trying to carve out a four hour session that never actually happens.

So progress is being made. Sometimes I'm excited by it. Sometimes I think it's utter shit. But I guess that's what keeps you chugging down the track when you don't actually know if the station at the end is filled with a welcoming party or an empty crisp packet blowing along the platform.

Anyway, I saw this Snapshot post on fellow blogger \ writer Awfully Chipper's site and decided to join in. Just to prove I'm alive \ have a life.

Snapshot of my life - what I'm....


Listening to: I Have A Tribe. Beautiful piano, mesmerising storytelling, lovely guy. I went to see him just the other week in Whelans and would recommend anyone and everyone to give him a listen.



Watching: Just finished Taboo. Tom Hardy. Now what? Recommendations gratefully received.

Reading: Re-reading The Time Travellers Wife - for novel writing purposes. AA Gill's Pour Me for pleasure purposes.

Looking forward to: Finally seeing a Cat Power gig this week. Last time I went to see her was about 10 years ago. I got stupidly lead astray and ended up sitting in the bar and missing the gig.

Wearing: Jeans, boots, sweatshirts, How did I survive so long without sweatshirts?

Eating: Too many delicious pastries from the lovely little Italian cafe down the road from work.

Working on: The Book.

Frustrated by: The Boys. Will they ever stop fighting with each other? It's the million dollar question.

Enjoying: Life. A wise friend once told me 'You're allowed to enjoy life you know?' It was a bit of a wake up call and I put in motion making choices that made me say 'Yes' instead of 'Oh I really shouldn't'. Also giving up drink has been the single greatest decision in terms of deep down life enjoyment. Cheers to that.

Not enjoying: It says a lot that I'm struggling to think of something - so lets just end on a positive.

See you at the station.



You can read more snapshots over on Awfully Chipper here. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

How to stop arguments about kids and coats.



Last year I found two perfect coats for my boys. One was a parka (I love parkas) and the other was a very cool bomber jacket. 

I bought the coats, brought them home and then spent the next six months arguing on average three times a day about the fact that they had to wear them.

'Put on your coat'

'But it's not cold!'

'Put on your coat. It's -3 degrees out'

'But I can't run in it!'

'PUT ON YOUR COAT!'

'You're so mean! You're the worst mother EVER'

And repeat, ad infinitum.

It gets very draining believe me. 

So when an email popped into my inbox asking if we would like to try the latest styles from world renowned brand Berghaus I grabbed the chance, hoping desperately they might help stop me from going slowly insane. 

Crucially, this time I let the kids choose the jackets. 

The very next week they arrived to much excitement. The boys donned their matching jackets immediately. 

'Our jackets are the same!' exclaimed the little brother excitedly.

'Our jackets are the same' said the big brother dolefully. 

And yet even that didn't put him off. 

They went for a walk to test them out. Style, comfort, warmth and wearability - all ticked off the list.

So the kids are finally happy. Hallelujah.


From my perspective they couldn't be better. The main thing is they actually wear them without an argument. Seriously. Not one argument about putting on a coat since they arrived. I actually can't believe it. 

The quality is second to none. The boy's black insulated jacket is described as 'A warm, lightweight jacket with a water repellent outer to protect from light showers.' And that's exactly what it is - perfect for those spring showers and warm enough for those unexpectedly cold days. 

I'm also thrilled that at least one of them still chose a parka #parentinggoals

We took ourselves off to the zoo at midterm and I didn't end up carrying them once (the coats that is, not the kids).


























They've also been wearing them every day to school, to friends houses, to sports, on walks and everything else in between.

And did I mention there were no arguments?

You can see the selection of berghaus coats and jackets at Blacks Online.

For boys coats
For girls coats

Disclosure: I was sent these coats for the purposes of this review. All words, images and kids are my own

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Harry Potter at Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Last Christmas I decided to give memories instead of presents to the kids. They get too much stuff as it is and half of it gets broken or discarded within a month, so I went a different route. Trips.

The eldest was the easiest. She had fallen under the spell of Harry Potter that year and spent at least 4 months walking around with her head in a book, bumping into lamp posts and past friends, occasionally looking up to see where her dinner was or to eye her mother disdainfully for asking her to put her book away.

So what better way to ease the poignancy of finishing the last book in the series than a trip to Warner Bros. Studios - the home of Harry Potter.


And as my sister lives just 20 minutes away it couldn't have been easier to plan.

The look on Kaya's face when she got the voucher was, as they say, priceless. But when we actually got to where the bus pulls up - it was even better.



And it continued to get better and better throughout the day.


We explored the sets of each of the films, learning about dragons and owls and special effects.



 We were taught how to wield a wand and fly a broomstick.


We wandered down Diagon Alley, visited Privot Drive, and jumped aboard the Hogwarts Express.















And of course we got to taste actual butter beer. This is how good it is...



The detail involved in the making of the films is mind blowing. Like for example the tens of thousands of wands that were individually inscribed with the names of their owners. Or the handwritten letters that the owls carried - which turned out to be too heavy for them so had to be done all over again on lighter paper. Now that's commitment.

The sets, the costumes, the detail, the magic - it really was amazing.

For a fan, or indeed their mum, it's definitely a highly recommended experience.



More info:
A transfer couch service runs from Watford Junction Station
Loads of parking available at the studios
Staff are all extremely helpful
Queue to get in - approx 25 mins
Tour time - approx 4 hours
A family ticket costs £118


Disclosure: Warner Bros Studios gifted us tickets to the tour in exchange for a review. All words, pictures, daughters and opinions are my own. For more information head over to their site. 

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