Sunday, February 1, 2015

Food, Fuel and Feeling Good

Rewind to November last year and I was on top of it all. Regularly running 10kms and eating healthily, I felt good. I was fit, strong and full of energy.

So I decided to up the stakes and challenge myself to a 20km run. I was surprised how quickly and easily I built up to it, and one cold, rainy November morning I sped through 20.5km in 1:57minutes. I put a big tick beside the challenge and promptly fell off the wagon.

At first I was just giving myself a few days rest. Then the weather started to get really cold. Then the Christmas party season started. Then the kids were on holidays. Then it was New Year. And then I was too unfit.

Many of those excuse-filled weeks off were filled with drink and fat laden foods - not that I ever have a problem with any of that - I'm a firm believer in 'everything in moderation'. It's just that when you don't have the balance of exercise in your life there really isn't any moderation.

The past week has been the worst. Housebound with a poorly boy I have been tired, grumpy and eating whatever rubbish I can to get me through the morning \ afternoon \ evening. Instead of eating a proper lunch I would have a piece of toast and two Mr. Kipling cakes. Followed by tea and biscuits. The mid-afternoon slump \ boredom would soon kick in and I would be reaching for the chocolate.

But the more crappy food you eat, the more crappy you feel, and the more crappy you feel the less you want to exercise. It's a vicious circle that none of us are immune to - even the ones that would be considered generally fit and healthy.

But this morning I broke the cycle. I went for a short 4k run followed by a power smoothie and suddenly I'm back! I feel instantly great again.

And that's the brilliant thing - like the vicious cycle there is also a virtuous cycle. Do some exercise and you feel good, which makes you want to eat more healthily, which makes you want to exercise, which makes you feel good...

So I guess it's time to just stop the excuses.

Although maybe I'll just stick to the 10kms this time.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A helping hand with #lastingchange

On Friday three of my good blogging buddies travelled to Kenya with Comic Relief to see the lasting changes that money from Red Nose Day brings to projects there. 

One of the projects they visited was Mothers2Mothers - an organisation that mentors mothers living with HIV. The women are educated about HIV and are shown how to live happy and healthy lives. This new knowledge is taken back into the community so that all families benefit from it. 

Thanks to money raised by Comic Relief - Mothers2Mothers are giving helping pregnant women living with HIV to access the life-saving health services they need to prevent mother-to-child transmission. 

“HIV is just a condition, you can go further, you can make wonders, you can help others” Elizabeth (above)
Kenya has the fourth-largest HIV epidemic in the world. An estimated 1.6 million people are living with HIV and 1.1 million children have been orphaned after losing one or both parents to the disease.
Women often discover they are HIV positive during ante-natal care and mentoring helps them to come to terms with this, to deal with the side effects on antiretroviral drugs, to eat well and to deliver babies with the best chance of being HIV negative. Women also learn to breastfeed safely, and to avoid stigma.
Red Nose Day officially launched today and David Walliams flew out to Kenya to be there for it. 
Photo Credit: Penny Alexander
Penny, Tanya and Annie will all be writing about their experiences and what David had to say - so be sure to follow their journey on #lastingchange.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dear Dry January. I hate you.

Here's a tip for you. If anyone ever, ever, asks you if you want to do dry January with them - walk away. Don't look back, just keep on walking straight to that delicious bottle of cold beer calling out to you from it's haven of loveliness.

Because Dry January is a crock of shit. A farce that I have been stupidly suckered into.

Of course, like me, you might be tempted after all those excesses at Christmas time. Might think it's just what your mind and body needs. Well, it isn't.

Never have I been as bored, boring or depressed. Three weeks in and I am OVER it. Not only is it freezing cold and miserable - I am freezing cold and miserable. And sober. 

Call me an alcoholic but life just isn't as much fun without alcohol. Friday night is the same as any other night. And Saturday is twice as depressing. Sipping on peppermint tea and watching a Downton Abbey box-set does not a weekend make.

Naturally you will try to compensate for the lack of alcohol in your life with food. cream...cake....chocolate ice cream cake... But it's not the same. And now you've lost the only thing you had keeping you going - the smugness of your 'my body is a temple' conversations. 

Where's the fun? The sparkle? The release?

It's not that I can't do it. I'm just so BORED doing it.

Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored.



Expect a spectacular fall off the wagon come February. I've got some catching up to do. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

8 Confessions of a Disorganised Mother

One I made  earlier

I know, I know - you can't believe it right? Surely I am a haven of organisation and logic in this world of chaos? All those walks in the fresh air...All those smoothies..All those travel expeditions...

Well yes. They are all real - it's just that they don't show the trail of destruction they (or rather I) leave behind. Fancy reading a post about how messy my kitchen can be before I actually roll up my sleeves and start tidying? Nah - didn't think so.

However I am willing to impart some inside information that comes with being a disorganised mother - so whether you are one or think you know one - here it it:

1. Our car reveals our secret.
Want to know if someone is a disorganised mother? Take a stealth peek into their car on the school run. My own car admonishes me every time I get into it. 'Look at this filth! You should be ashamed of yourself!' And I am - really. Just not enough to actually do anything about it. Sometimes the admonishment comes in the very real voice of one of the children's friends. 
'Wow. Your car is really messy....'
Said in a voice which is a mixture of awe and disgust. 
The other week I did actually get shamed into clearing it out properly. From memory the contents included: One cardboard Christmas wreath made in school (now ripped), one chip wrapper, a toy car, two broken pencils, one black glove, one red glove, a McDonald's box troll toy, various sweet wrappers, three water bottles and a sports sock.

2. Email reminders
Multiple times I day I will email myself reminders of things I need to do. Then, seconds later, I hear a ping in my mailbox and I jump on it wondering what it can be. Invariably it is my own idiotic disorganised self.

3.Our laundry pile
Not only have we never seen the bottom of the laundry basket - but the stuff at the top often comes back out again for another wear. Frequently we can be found picking a dirty tracksuit out of the pile on a Monday morning when the weekend managed to get the better of us.

4. School
Most people do one school run in the morning. Not us. You can usually find us screeching up to the gates again at 9.30 with the forgotten lunch, PE kit, homework....

5. Dinners are not always planned.
Sometimes we have good weeks. We meal plan on a Sunday, shop on a Monday and breathe a great big sign of relief every other day for the rest of the week. 'Why can't we do this every week?' - we ask ourselves. The very next week will see us searching the fridge to see what goes with baked beans, and then realising that we don't actually have any bread in. Or beans for that matter.

6. Our filing system
Generally all post goes in a big pile on the kitchen counter, which sits there making you feel guilty and sapping away your energy until you can no longer bare it. At this point you bring it upstairs and it sits on your work desk making you feel guilty and sapping away your energy until you can no longer bear it. Finally when you get stopped at a check point and your car tax and insurance is two months out of date you realise that you really do need to get your shit together. Now if only you could find your drivers license...

7. Handbags and Housework
Generally pretty much everything in our lives follows the same path as our car. Our wardrobes are overflowing with clothes we never wear, our handbags are bursting with useless crap, our floors need a good scrub, our dusters are rarely used and we do not own an iron.

8. We are silently judging you too.
If you are an organised mother you may well be watching us and silently judging. Shaking your head and wondering how we can live our lives in this way. Well, a little known fact is that we are silently judging you too. Pristine house? Perfect kids? Filing all up to date? Hmm. Something's not right here.

This is more our style
The truth is we like to think we are 'creative', or 'living in the moment', or too busy having fun, or just generally a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal.

But yes, you are right, we are simply disorganised mothers trying desperately to look for an excuse.

Pass me that wine would you?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Blown Away - Getting more than we bargained for in the Wicklow Mountains

Just before the schools went back we decided to make the most of a cold but glorious day and head into the Wicklow Mountains for a 'blow away the cobwebs' new year walk.

I vaguely knew the place we were going to, albeit I hadn't actually been there in over 10 years. The kids weren't so keen on the idea howevr, so in the car on the way there I had to sell it to them.

'Do you know that people from ALL OVER THE WORLD come here to walk this walk and see these views'.

(It's true they do)

'And here you are with it on your doorstep! You lucky, lucky things!'

Grunts from the back indicated I was still losing the battle.

'And do you know there's a secret lake hidden among the mountains that we have to find?'

I note a tiny pique of interest so shut up before I blow it.

Once we park the car up alongside a handful of others by the side of the road on a remote mountainside we are hit with an extraordinary view. You can see why people travel the globe to get here.

I knew the entrance to the walk was close by but as it was cold and windy I made sure by asking directions from a family of hikers.

'Up and to the right - but watch out for those winds...'

And so we set off. First through the deep dark woods, and then on up along the secret wooden walkway....

The wind continued to howl angrily outside our forested protection.

Once out of the woods we were blasted with gusts of icy wind and we faced scenes of the apocalypse.

Shouting to be heard above the wind I ushered them on -

'Just round the bend up to the top of the hill. The secret lake awaits!'
Inside of course I am silently weeping. This was not the gentle mountain stroll I had envisioned.

We marched onward, hit on every side by the loud and powerful gales. We made it around the corner and fought our way to the top of the hill. As we reached the peak a huge gust knocked me sideways. The three children grabbed hold of a post shouting and screaming. Our heartbeats quickened as I grabbed hold of one of them and we formed a human chain to get back down as quickly as possible.

Once back inside the shelter of the woods I cursed myself for not picking a better day to bring them up there. They'll never agree to go back up there after that. And so the secret lake remains a secret, for now at least.

And whilst I failed to get a picture of us all being knocked about the mountainside - this video of their hardy cousin in another area of these wonderful mountains more than makes up for it.

Next time I'm putting her in charge.

Joining in with Coombe Mill Country Kids 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Completely Poor

Image: Jamie Hewlett

There's nothing quite like an empty bank account to focus the ol' energies is there?

All those resolutions about healthy food, fresh air, saving cash... Well they're all par for the course when you get poor it seems.

Suddenly all those little extravagances you made at Christmas seem downright ostentatious. 18 euro on new earrings and 25 on hot chocolate and cakes? Outrageous! What were you thinking! You picture all of the steak you could buy with that as you try to eke out the last of the root veg and persuade the kids that minestrone soup three days in a row is actually still delicious.

Naturally they aren't buying it, in any sense of the word.
"Didn't even like it the first day."

(Whatevs kids. Wait 'til we get to day five).

I've even had to cut out my morning cappuccino addiction for Godsakes. Things are getting extreme here.

Of course it's not all Dickensian woe and villiany. Our lovely bracing walks are still free, and it's only, erm, 3 weeks until pay day. *bites nails*

And actually, in all honesty, I am not 'completely poor'. In fact, I feel a bit like the girl in Pulp's Common People 

"But still you'll never get it right  
'cos when you're laid in bed at night 
watching roaches climb the wall 
If you call your Dad he could stop it all."

So yeah. I can't really grumble. Thankfully I always have that safety net. That family around the corner to bail me out if I ask them to. It doesn't mean that I will, but knowing that I can makes the world of difference.

And so the three (five) day old minestrone and cutting out the caffeine drip doesn't really seem so bad after all. 

On the other hand the thoughts of having no safety net there is simply terrifying.

Don't look down people. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Easy Green and Red Smoothies

Christmas is well and truly over. People everywhere are clearing out cupboards, making resolutions and writing shopping lists full of the healthiest foods they've ever heard of. Even in Aldi this morning I heard not one but two different people ask where the Chia seeds were located. Who even knew they existed this time last year?! There was also a serious run on the fruit and veg aisles, whilst the poor 4 foot Wispa bars and leftover selection boxes stood sadly unwanted by the tills. Mission uncompleted.

So now, what are you going to do with all those fresh and healthy goods before they start rotting as you finish off the last of the Foxes biscuit tin?

Smoothies of course!

If you were lucky enough to get one of the new juicer / blenders for Christmas you are probably well on your way already. Oh how I love my Nutri Bullet - one of my best purchases of 2014.

But if you are looking for ideas then here are my two favourite smoothies that I make every single day and yet still look forward to.

Green Monster

(Pic above)

  • Orange juice
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons natural \ other yogurt (Glenisk Blueberry Greek is amazing)
  • 1 banana
  • Fresh ginger
  • 2 cubes of frozen spinach
  • Tablespoon of ground linseeds \ chia seeds \ powdered greens (optional)

Simply place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

You can play around with the quantities of each to get it to the consistency and taste that you like best.

Berry Booster

  • Orange or apple juice
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons yogurt as above
  • 1 banana
  • 1 - 2 handfuls of frozen berries
  • Tablespoon of ground linseeds \ chia seeds \ powdered greens (optional)

As above - place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

It really is that easy. You can use these smoothies for after-school snacks, as a pick me up between meals, or even as a meal substitute if you are trying to lose weight.

Warning - they are highly addictive. Enjoy!

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