Monday, November 28, 2016

One Year No Beer: 2 months down, 10 to go...

Two months ago I set myself the challenge of going 30 days without alcohol.

There wasn't one major reason, more a few minor ones, plus I'd been introduced to the One Year No Beer movement and I'm a sucker for a rhyme, so here we are.

I'm a social drinker, usually having a few (or more) drinks three nights in any week. If I go out there is plenty consumed. I love red wine and cold beer. Before the challenge I couldn't possibly have imagined actually going out out and not drinking.

The only other time I did 30 days completely off alcohol was one dry January that was so miserable I promised myself I would never, ever do it again. I even went on BBC radio urging others not to make the same terrible mistake.



So what changed?

One very simple thing. My mind. Instead of focusing on what I was depriving myself of, I focused on what I was gaining. And this really is one of the key pillars of One Year No Beer.

So what exactly have I gained?

Well quite a lot really.

Obviously there have been no hangovers which has given me that holy grail that money can't buy - more time. And speaking of money - I've saved a ton of that too. I've also much more energy, less anxiety, less stress. I'm more ready to take on the world. My skin is brighter, I've lost weight, and maybe even gained a little patience.

Accomplishments

In the two months I've managed to fit in finishing a diploma that I had been slowly plodding through up to that point. I've painted two rooms of the house. Ticked off my ever growing reminder list on my phone, and run my fasted 10k race ever. I've now dusted off my attempted novel and am focusing all my extra energy on that.

My app tells me I've saved myself approximately 113 drinks, €570 and 17,370 calories.

And then of course there's the untold health benefits...

Okay, okay, I can see you rolling your eyes. But what about the going out, the fun, the release, the well earned glass of wine at the end of a long day?

Challenges

It's all actually easier than you think. Many of us see alcohol as a stress reliever, but in fact it just presses pause on it, and then all that held back stress comes back in a rush the next day - worse than before.

The fun can mostly be had without the drink - though so far not that 'lost weekend' kind of fun. But then again, most of those lost weekends are actually lost from memory too - wiped out other than a few random flashes.

So far I've been out to gigs, a festival, dinners and a girls night out and had fun at all of them, with the added benefit of actually remembering them. Sure I'm ready to head home at midnight - but I'm more than happy with that. A good night sleep and you're leaping out of the bed the next day. Best of both worlds. (Annoying aren't I?)

The only thing I've shied away from so far is ordering a steak. Indelibly linked to a big glass of red for now at least.

Next weekend I head to Dingle for a weekend that revolves around live music, pubs and Guinness, I think I'm ready for it.

The future

Those first 30 days passed easily. I actually enjoyed it. So I decided to keep going.

I'm two months in now and planning on having an alcohol free Christmas. After my 90 day target is hit I then weigh up if I want to go for the whole year or not. One Year No Beer. 365 days.

And after that there's just the rest of my life to decide on.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Jewellery for little girls - Lulu Ladybird

If you're looking for some age appropriate jewellery for little girls that are step up from wooden beads and elasticated bracelets - then look no further.

Lulu Ladybird is an Irish company that has a collection of over 60 styles of silver jewellery - from owls and cupcakes, to butterflies and headphones - and pretty much everything else inbetween that little girls love.

Items start at €20 and each piece is beautifully gift boxed - making them the perfect gift for Christmas.

You can choose either complete sets or standalone necklaces, earrings and bracelets.



We have one very happy customer. 


The jewellery is good quality, beautifully designed, and perfect for tween and teen girls.

The only problem you'll now have is choosing which ones...




You can find Lulu Ladybird on Facebook, or buy online and in store from a number of well known jewellers. 

Disclosure: I was sent a selection of products from Lulu Ladybird for the purposes of this review. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Homelessness in Ireland - What can we do?

Everyone is aware of the crisis. You only have to walk down the main street of any town in Ireland to see it with your own eyes. 

But look a little deeper and you see another story - the story of the homeless children - living out of suitcases in one room temporary accomodation. No home, no stability, no hope. Living with constant worry , embarrassment and shame. Why me?

This week Focus Ireland launched their Christmas appeal with a hard-hitting campaign that  highlights a record number of  over 2,400 children and nearly 1200 families are  homeless nationwide.  

The new campaign makes an urgent appeal to people  to donate to support Focus Ireland’s work challenging homelessness.  

 "Homelessness. We can’t  live like this anymore.”


Sinead Compton co-director of fundraising Focus Ireland with her two children Arron and Meabh with Sr Stan as they launch the charity's urgent Christmas appeal.
Sr. Stan spoke passionately of the terrible impact being homeless has on children – and families - as she said: “Christmas should be one of the happiest times of year for children and their families. However, it breaks my heart to think that up to 2,500 children will be homeless on Christmas day this year.”

She added: “I know from meeting families who are homeless that we support it’s the children who feel it the worst. Many times a family who are homeless are often squeezed into one hotel room – 3 or 4 people in one room, nowhere to cook or for children to play

But Focus can help. 

Sr. Stan highlighted the vital role Focus Ireland’s lifeline services play in supporting people   as   Focus Ireland reported that its family team services have supported  230 families and just under 450 children   in Dublin to secure a home and escape from the trauma of homelessness in the first 10 months of this year. 

One mother Gillian who was homeless but has now secured a home with support of Focus Ireland said:"When you have a home you don't realise how lucky you are.... my daughter was only two weeks old when we became homeless,  I don't think I'd even be here now if it wasn't for Focus Ireland,  I wake up every day now and  think 'I have a home,"

Maybe it's time to start counting our blessings and helping those a lot less fortunate. 

You can donate whatever you can afford at Focus Ireland  or by calling 1850 204 205.

Note: Focus also campaign tirelessly for increased funding and changes in government policy. Like the Focus Ireland Facebook page to get involved. 


This post is part of a Blog March by members of the Irish Parenting Bloggers network, to raise awareness of homelessness and Focus Ireland’s campaign. You can read more posts on the subject below or by following the hashtag #FocusOnChristmas on social media. Thank you. 


Monday, November 14, 2016

The ghost of Christmas past


The heat rose up like a wall as I stepped from the plane, collapsing in on me, smothering down.
I wondered how I would cope.

In time I came to love that heat, almost as much as the big brown eyes of the little children that looked up at me each day. Expectant, hopeful. What have you brought me? What can you do for me? Where are we going?

And I did bring things, and play things, and go places.

I bundled those barefooted kids in the back of a pick-up truck and drove them to wild beaches. With terrible Spanish I begged store owners for free paint and painted almost-straight lines on rundown basketball courts. We played football together and drank ice-cold cola straight from a plastic bag and a straw – purchased for the princely sum of 10c from the old man and his cart. We ate cheap tacos from roadside stalls, and explored dusty mountain paths. And we sat doing nothing day after day after day in that heat, knowing that something big was happening between us.  

In return they taught me their language, their culture, their ways, their worries, their pain, their joy, their generosity. It was a humbling experience for anyone, let alone that fresh faced college kid that had left Ireland hoping for a sun tan and a story.

A bond was built over those months, and when the time came to return home I couldn’t. And so I stayed, learning more, becoming more.

Then Christmas approached, and I knew my time was up.

One of my favourite little followers was a girl named Mia. She was about eight years old, but tall and wise for her age. She wore long tanned limbs and a buzz cut. On one of my last days in the town we sat together in the sunshine kicking around the dirt.

Mia lived in a small, dark room with two other families, about fifteen bodies in total.  I told her I would soon be leaving to go home to my own family for Christmas. She asked me about them - did I have brothers and sisters? Where did we live? I supplied easy answers, enjoying reminiscing about home. The conversation soon turned to Christmas and she asked if Santa Claus came to Ireland. 

Relaxed and happy in the sunshine I shot out the first answer that breezed through my young head – ‘Of course he comes to Ireland, he goes to every country!’

I watched the flash of hurt and confusion cross her beautiful eyes, and knew what her next words would be.

‘Why doesn’t he come to me then?’

The Gods pressed pause.

I was out of my depth.

I forced the words out and the tears back.

I left soon after, trying to arrange for some gifts to be left with her after I’d gone. I still have no idea if they ever made it to her.

And so I returned home to abundance and celebration, and Mia returned home to her concrete cave.

Life of course would never be the same again, and although I know I became a better person for the whole experience, I can’t help thinking that part of it may have come at the expense of one lonely little girl in Mexico. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Listography - 5 favourite posts (and 2 big milestones)

Happy 6th blogging anniversary to me!

Six years of banging a keyboard and sending my musings out in to the world to take on a life of their own. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't. But as every blogger knows - sometimes your favourite posts don't get any clicks at all, whereas that one you threw out on your phone whilst cooking dinner and herding kids seemed to reach the far corners of Mongolia.

I still haven't figured that one out.

I also celebrate another milestone this year. Unbeknown to myself I made it to 1 million hits on my little corner of the internet. It shows a lot that about how long I've been blogging that I didn't even notice when it happened. Stats somewhat slipped down the ladder of importance after about year three or four.

Back when I was a proper blogger - frantically writing posts, commenting on other people's blogs, joining in the community, chasing badges and buttons and links - I was ranked in the Top 10 British and Irish Parenting Blogs. It's a nice place to be when you put your heart and soul into something. But at some stage a shift occurred when the love of blogging left, and so I dropped out of all the stat chasing, removed myself from the lists and just started writing for me.

Since then I've written some of my favourite posts.

Which brings me to Listography. Listography was my linky. I ran it every week for years, cataloguing our favourite music, mugs, movies and more. Lots of bloggers joined in and it was fun. Until it wasn't. So I dropped it.

But what better time than an anniversary and a million milestone to resurrect it for a one off?

So - get a cup of tea, go back through your blog, pick out your top 5 favourite posts you've written and then write up your own Listography to share. Linky is below.

Here are mine


1. What makes your heart sing?
Nothing brilliant, but a good reminder to search for the happy

Listography

2. 51 thoughts every mother has about a rare night out. 
Definitely not written from personal experience *cough*

Listography

3. When all the toys are gone. 
Unashamed nostalgia about something that hasn't even happened yet.

Listography

4. A seismic shift
It was a pretty big year

Listography

5, 42 and thankful.
Not much to say about this other than I'm another year older now and still thankful.

Listography

Okay, go!



Monday, October 24, 2016

Sunday strolls in the Wicklow Mountains

Sometimes I forget that I have THIS on the doorstep.


However every so often I take myself off up the Wicklow mountains and am reminded of the glory of nature, and each time I tell myself that I really should do this more often. 


And then inevitably I come home and forget all about it. 


This particular walk took us from Lough Tay (the Guinness lake) to Lough Dan.

It's a spectacular start, and then a beautiful countryside walk through hills and fields for about an hour, until you reach the silent and beautiful lake.







Once there it's time for a pause for reflection before heading back along your tracks to the car. 

A well-earned pub lunch naturally follows, and then home for Sunday papers by the fire. 

Pretty hard to beat it in fairness. 

I really should do this more often...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How to be a (good) bank manager


I've been meaning to blog about this for awhile but life has a habit of getting in the way.

Anyway, let me introduce you to Kiva.

Kiva allows you to become a virtual bank manager and give micro loans to people all over the world.

You have the opportunity to choose a sum, choose an actual person to lend it to, and then watch as your beneficiary grows their business and pays you back bit by bit.

And then you have the opportunity to lend the sum to another well-deserving candidate (or cash it in if you'd rather).

One of the wonderful things about this project is that you see exactly who your money is going to - and it's not a donation - it's a loan, that can be re-loaned time and time again.

I signed up in April pledging just $25 and then sat down with the kids to choose who we would lend the money to.

Together we chose Rosalina in the Philippines. Rosalina was looking for a loan of $300 over 10 months to help her buy materials needed in her business.




Kiva says -

Rosalina, 40, is a married woman with seven children, five of whom are in school. She is a very hardworking entrepreneur.

Rosalina has a broom-making business in the Philippines. She has been in this business for 20 years.

Rosalina requested a PHP 13,000 ($300) loan amount through NWTF to buy bamboo sticks, bamboo leaves, and other materials needed in her business.

In the future, Rosalina would like to save enough money so she could afford to send her children to college.


Pretty well deserving of a helping hand no?

One month later, in May, I received a notification to say that Rosalina had made her first repayment of $4.66.

Every month since then Rosalina has made further repayments, and I'm almost ready to choose who gets my same micro loan next.


There's no limit to the number of people you can lend to, or the amount you want to put forward - so you can just continue to lend within your own budget.

Pledging a sum to Kiva would make an amazing Christmas present - for both the borrower and the lender. It's also a really great way to get the kids to see and think about how others live around the world.

You can read more about Kiva, how it works and where it works at Kiva.com
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