Sunday, October 1, 2017

1 year. 12 months. 365 days. I did it.

It's now one whole year since I gave up alcohol for what was supposed to be one month.

No one is more surprised than me to find myself here. I had absolutely no intention whatsoever in going off it for so long. 30 days was my agreed limit. A supportive gesture that surprised me with it's benefits. So much so that I decided to keep going to 365. And now here I am, pretty sure I'll never go back.


The funny thing about giving up alcohol is that everybody thinks you've got a back story. You're an alcoholic. You're sick. You're dying. Something terrible has happened. I still enjoy the fact that when you ask for a non-alcoholic beer in a bar or restaurant there's a pause ('Is she joking?'), and then a hurried, averted-eyes response - 'Of course, yes, no problem...' ('Oh my GOD she must be an alcho. Quick, act normal'). The truth of course is a lot more boring.

I stopped drinking for 30 days with my boyfriend. A challenge. A test to see what health benefits might occur. With the support of One Year No Beer this was more about the good things might come from it, rather than depriving ourselves. This mental shift was one of the most powerful things in making the experience so positive.

I became highly productive, brimming with energy. Skin, sleep and mood improved. Weekends were spent in the great outdoors instead of dragging myself around town with a faint headache and a desire for bedtime.

I painted the house, finished a diploma, completed the first draft of a book, did a triathlon, ran a sub-50-minute 10k race, hiked 120k of the camino, took to sunrise swimming, still went out, and learned a huge amount about myself while doing it.




Turns out you can accomplish lots of things when you're not drinking / hungover.

When you tell people you've stopped drinking, (and assure them that there's no tragic backstory), they always wonder whether you were a real drinker in the first place. I can assure you that I was. My typical week would be maybe half a bottle of wine midweek, a couple of beers one night of the weekend, and then a couple of beers and another half bottle of wine the next night. Of course some weekends were much heavier, though nothing 'worrying' in terms of what we all seem to consider normal these days. That will be a lot more than some of you, and a lot less than others.

I reckon I save at least €200 a month not drinking, that's about €2500 a year. Which would translate into a pretty amazing holiday if you were so inclined. Me? I started a pension plan instead. So yeah, who says not drinking makes you boring?

Do I still get stressed about things? Certainly. But I'm now more likely to reach for the running shoes rather than the bottle to relax. Do I still get cravings? Occasionally I'll eye up a glass of red wine and consider 'just one'. But really there's no such thing. A year after giving up, I no longer agonise over the decision of whether or not I will drink again. I've gained more from giving it up than anything I might have lost. This quote seems more and more apt the further down the road I go. It's just easier to not drink 100% of the time.
The weirdest thing about the whole experience is that the spell of alcohol is suddenly broken, and you see it for what it is. I'm not here to lecture anyone about the merits or dangers of drink, but a conversation with your kids about it is highly recommended. With little prompting mine came out with nuggets such as 'Grown ups are scary when they're drunk'; 'They become like different people'; 'Everyone is loud and stupid'. Hmm.

Society has normalised our drinking habits to such a degree that to not drink is considered to be weird, boring, suspicious. But it's worth breaking the spell just once in your adult life, so that you can look from the other side of the fence with a clear mind and then decide which field you want to set up camp in. You might be as surprised as I am with your choice.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer 2017. Where did that go?

Summer loving, loving Summer.


It's my favourite season. The time when ankle boots are kicked to the curb and flip flops and bare feet take centre stage. For the past few months my toes have had a love affair with a battered pair of Haviana's, barely flirting with anything else on offer.

But now the school books have been purchased and the jumpers are starting to come out more frequently. The hardly noticed shorter evenings and slightly later sunrises are creeping up, and it has to be admitted - summertime is almost over.


June was a blur of primary school leaving parties, celebrations and uniformed swims. The eldest moves on to secondary this year and we all took a gulp as she waved goodbye at the school gates she first entered so many years ago.


July was kids clubs, travel and birthdays. I hiked 120k of the Camino in Spain, while the kids and their Dad had old fashioned fun in West Cork, with fishing nets, stray dogs and Graham Norton..




August has been the month I sampled and fell for sunrise swimming. Who knew that there was something I'd be willing to get out of bed at 5.30 for..? Amazing. The kids have even got in on the action.





I've also been training for a triathlon, just one week to go now. 

We've spent weeks strolling up and down to the beach for sea swims in every weather. We've done sleepovers, glamping, backyard camping, rabbit adopting, beach movies, horse riding, stone skimming, trampolining, cooking, festivals, and of course - plenty of boredom.




I had intended to write about all of our trips and adventures, but blogging seems to have taken a back seat for the summer months. Too much 'Life' to squeeze in, but too many memories not to record some of it. So this little recap will have to do.


Plenty of time for more during the darker days and colder weather.

See you then.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Dancer


‘Sean. Wake up. She’s out there again.’

Lucy’s husband rolled over under the duvet and moaned.

‘Do you think we should go out to her?’ she whispered, peaking through the flimsy curtains into the garden next door.

‘What’s she doing this time?’ he asked sleepily, more interested in his return to dreams than the latest antics of their aged neighbour.

‘She’s in her nighty and she’s twirling around on the grass. I think… I think she’s dancing.’

‘Just leave her to it. She’s as mad as a box of frogs Lucy’.

‘I feel bad for her though. She looks so frail and graceful out there in the darkness all alone’.

Lucy continued to watch her neighbour’s movements. She opened the window a little and heard the old woman with the long grey hair and white flowing nightdress calling to the non-existent birds around her.

‘Rodolfo! Rodolfo! It’s time now! Are you there Bernard?’


Lydia tied up her ballet shoes and stretched out on the barre. The feeling was magical. Every day could be a good day after pulling your body to life. She studied herself in the mirror. Long limbs, and golden hair stretched back in a tight bun. The other girls in the room bent and leapt beside her. Each one as graceful as the next. Beautiful creatures.

Bernard would be coming to see the show tonight. After every performance he brought her flowers with a note nestled in them - ‘To my darling Lydia. I couldn’t be prouder. All my love forever, Bernard.’ She smiled as she thought of him. It wouldn’t be long now until he officially asked her.

When the dancers took their afternoon break, Lydia walked quickly down to the café on the corner to meet him. She still got a thrill walking through the streets of London. She had thought she was a big city girl before she moved here, but within a day she had realised how parochial Dublin was. She looked up at the sky and felt the warmth of the sun on her face.

A collision sent her back-stepping into the path of busy shoppers.

‘Oh! Are you alright miss?’ His deep brown eyes looked into hers, and for a moment she was lost. 
‘My fault, my fault, I am so sorry. You are ok?’

She thought the accent was Italian, but couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that she wanted to hear more.

‘I’m fine. I think it may have been my fault actually’. She looked up to the sky in explanation and was surprised to see him smiling warmly at her when her gaze returned.

Within minutes they were settled into a booth in an American style diner, and he was telling her how he had ended up in England after the war. She told him about how her parents had used all their savings to send her to London to become a ballet star, and how she was already making it after less than a year here. Of course she was still only in the chorus, but she was getting closer every day.  He was enthralled and begged her to let him come to watch. It was only then that she thought of Bernard. Poor, sweet, loyal Bernard, who must be wondering what had happened to her.

‘I’ll leave a ticket for you at the door. I suppose you better tell me your name, hadn’t you?’

‘It’s Rodolfo. After my great, great grandfather. Family is numero uno for true Italians.’ He held up one index finger to make the point, then gently leaned forward and stroked her cheek with it.

As she skipped back to the theatre she wondered why she had never felt that same thrill when Bernard touched her. The pull was undeniable, all she wanted was to reach out and touch him back. Rodolfo. She said it to herself again, rolling it off her tongue in delight.

After the show, amid the flurried footsteps and laughter of other dancers, she received the flowers.

‘You were amazing. I must see you again. Meet me tomorrow night. I will wait for you. Rodolfo.’

Bernard didn’t understand why she was spending less and less time with him. When he asked in desperation if she would marry him, she could do no more than shake her head and give him a soft kiss on the cheek. Poor Bernard.

Their romance was the thing of movies. Long kisses and passionate embraces that sometimes went too far. But it didn’t matter because they were so in love. Rodolfo was ecstatic. He couldn’t wait for her to meet his Mama and sisters. Did she know it was all girls in his family? His father had left when they were young, and his five sisters had helped raise him. And Italy! Wait until she saw Italy! They would go to Florence on their honeymoon. It was like nowhere else on earth. Too beautiful to describe. As beautiful as her even! They would have - what? Four? Five children? They would all have his brown skin and her cheekbones. Bellisima!

Her family had all come over from Ireland for the wedding. Excited and impressed by the suddenness of it all. Her mother wore the biggest hat Clery’s had available, and her father the proudest smile in the church.

Lydia stood at the bottom of the aisle in the prettiest three-quarter length white dress, flared at the waist to show off her still-perfect figure. ‘Bellisima!’ he would whisper when he leaned in to kiss her neck.

It was only when she saw the worried glances fly between the guests that she thought something might be wrong. Had the rings been forgotten? Was somebody ill? Her father looked at his watch again.

Lydia sat without moving, staring at the crucifix ahead as chaos echoed around her. They said her father and brother had to pull her from the pew. White flowers scattered in the aisle as they dragged her out.

She never did hear from him again.


Lucy closed the curtains and got back into bed. ‘Poor old thing’, she sighed, as she nestled into her husband’s warm back, 'I wonder what happened to her to make her so crazy'.



This story is fictional. Inspired by an old neighbour and the need to take a break from the novel writing.

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.





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...