Thursday, April 16, 2015

Alternative Wedding Outfits for Boys

star wars inspired wedding
I do love a good wedding, and so I'm delighted that my little sister and her beau have decided to tie the knot this summer.

Naturally I have spent the past three months online looking for my own dress, but now that I am sorted I've turned my attention to my boys.

As they spend most of their time in tracksuit bottoms and hoodies I'm getting considerable pleasure over the fact that I get to dress them up like Little Lord Fountleroy and there's not a thing that they can do about it. (Apart from completely refusing to wear the outfit and um, that would never happen...)

Instead of going the traditional beige linen \ little navy suit way I've decided to take a bit of an alternative route. I can see my mother's frown appearing already.

These are my top picks so far from the fabulous Melijoe.

Alternative wedding outfits for boys

Alternative wedding outfits for boys by katetakes5 on Polyvore

Baxter, the 6 year old, gets the shirt and braces on the left, and Marley, 8, the t-shirt \ waistcoat combo on the right. Both are one part smart and one part casual. 

Comfortable shoes and soft trousers are a must so that they can do the all important running-slide-on-your-knees-move on the dance floor at the end of the night. 

What more could they ask for?

"Can I take off this jacket now?"

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with All words and opinions are my own

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do you have one of THOSE kids?

I've spent a lot of time this week wondering whether my kids are normal kids - you know, boisterous, whiny and mostly annoying, with a little pinch of angelic thrown in just to keep you on your toes?

The conclusion that I have come to is that two thirds of them are normal, or would be if it wasn't for the other third.

You see, I have two regular children, and then I have one of those kids. 

I'm not sure exactly when it started, but he was certainly a difficult toddler - ruling the roost by the time he could walk. Much of his early years were spent ordering one or other family member around. 'Get me my drink! Fetch me my pyjamas! And make sure they are the cuddly ones. I like the cuddly ones'.

Before long I caught myself asking him whether he wanted his sandwiches cut into triangles or squares, and how he would like his bath run.

Warm with bubbles?

Ducks or no ducks?

No ducks you say? No problem - let's just scoop them out shall we? No? Not working for you? Oh I see, they touched the water. Yes, of course I get it. Duck butts in your bath. Ok, lets just let the bath out before you burst through the door with rage leaving a cartoon-like hole in the wood.

But life with a Psycho Toddler morphs into a weird normality in no time at all. Psycho enters the rooms totally naked, menacingly swinging a garlic crusher, and nobody even bats an eyelid.

They're too scared to.

Many's the time Psycho Toddler had a meltdown because he 'WANTED THE BLUE BOWL NOT THE WHITE ONE!' Cue 20 minutes of hysterical kicking and screaming.

Stupid Mummy. What was I thinking?

After much soul searching I've realised however that it is not entirely my fault. As I know Lady Gaga herself would agree - I'm pretty sure he was born this way.

But now he is six. And what was cute or at least excusable as a toddler isn't so cute or excusable any more. It seems there's only so long you can get away with being a psycho.

He also has his older brother and sister terrorised. And I don't blame them. He can be pretty terrifying. Like a miniature Hitler with less facial hair and more swagger.

I know that something's got to change, but I'm fearing that we have left it too late. The monster has out grown us.

Naughty steps, removal of privileges, quiet explanations, cross words and every mother's old reliable - the empty threat have all proved unsuccessful so far.

What to do?

But then, just as I'm beginning to despair, he does something beautiful. Puts his chubby hand in mine and squeezes it, tells me how lucky he is to have me as a mummy, or nestles into my neck and tells me that he 'still very loves me' - and all is magically forgiven.

God he's good at this.

This post first appeared on

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What Are You Eating?

I've been building up to this post for awhile now. It started with a vague conscientiousness many years ago when I decided to become a vegetarian. I hated the thought of live animals being transported across countries in cramped conditions, of huge factory farms filled with chickens that barely had room to breath, and of dirty pigs being treated as such. 

That crusade lasted 15 years before I slowly felt my body and family needed more than what they were being provided with, and I just didn't have the time (or funnily enough the energy) to delve into what was missing from our diets and where else it could be found. So first the fish returned, then the chicken, then the mince and finally a big fat juicy steak. 

And I have to say I wasn't sorry.

I did continue to buy free range chickens, but for the rest I just couldn't justify the cost, so instead buried my head in the sand in order to justify my choices.


Apart from all that I've always been a food label reader. My parents were ahead of the curve on healthy eating and we would routinely roll our eyes at the latest research they would impart to us.

"Did you know The China Study shows that we can reverse our cholesterol levels on a whole-food, plant based diet?!"

"Fascinating Dad"  

Or what their own parents used to say about certain foodstuffs -

"My father always called white sugar the white death. It'll kill you and your teeth"


But anyway, some of it must have sunk in because for as long as I can remember I've been inspecting labels, and have tried to avoid too many E numbers or packets containing ingredients I can't pronounce.




But sometimes I get lazy and grab the carrot cake without seeing that it is packed with hydrogenated fat, or buy the Pringles for the Saturday night treat, or throw the sugar packed museli bars in the trolley and tell myself they are healthy because they have oats in them. 

Because sometimes it's just easier to kid ourselves.

But do Pringles actually contain any real food at all? And did you know that Nature Valley Granola Bars contain as much sugar as a bowl of fruit loops? And we would never let our kids eat those now would we..?

And then I read this article in the Guardian - Inside the Food Industry. The surprising truth about what you eat. It's a fascinating piece and I urge you to read it for yourself - but here's a very brief summary if you don't have time:

The writer, Joanna Blythman, who goes undercover at an annual food trade show says:

"While exhibitors at most food exhibitions are often keen for you to taste their products, few standholders here had anything instantly edible to offer. Those that did weren’t all that they seemed. Canapé-style cubes of white cheese dusted with herbs and spices sat under a bistro-style blackboard that nonchalantly read “Feta, with Glucono-Delta-Lactone” (a “cyclic ester of gluconic acid” that prolongs shelf life)."

Basically the entire food fair is about using science and technology to create cheaper alternatives to real foodstuffs. 

"Manufacturers who need their tomato sauce to be thick enough not to leak out of its plastic carton – and just a little bit glossy, so that it doesn’t look matt and old after several days in the fridge – were sold the advantages of Microlys®, a “cost-effective” speciality starch that gives “shiny, smooth surface and high viscosity”.


Or how about Butter Buds®,

 "described by its makers as “an enzyme-modified encapsulated butter flavour that has as much as 400 times the flavour intensity of butter” 

Anyone else find this scary?

Now many of us have been label reading for years and have come to know some of the things to avoid and also some of the dirty tricks manufacturers play to trick us into thinking foods are healthier than they actually are. Just because something says 'Natural' doesn't mean it is. 'Low fat' is often packed with sugar. And 'sugar' on a label is often divided up into glucose, fructose, sucrose and probably a host of other 'oses' I know nothing about. 

But things are getting worse. What was entirely new to me was that many of the old identifiably 'bad' ingredients are disappearing. 'Great!' you might think. But unfortunately it's not quite as simple as that. The food industry now knows what we want, and what we want is less additives and more 'real' food and so that is what it is giving us - on the label if not in the actual product.

As Joanna says - 

"Picking up a salami, even the most guarded shopper might relax when they see rosemary extract on the ingredients list – but rosemary extracts are actually “clean-label” substitutes for the old guard of techie-sounding antioxidants (E300-21), such as butylhydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylhydroxytoluene (BHT). Food manufacturers use them to slow down the rate at which foods go rancid, so extending their shelf life."


And that of course is just the tip of the iceberg. Really - go read the article.  


Last month The Sunday Times published an piece on how our takeaway sandwiches are made. It describes thousands and thousands of ham and cheese, prawn cocktail and egg mayonnaise sandwiches being made by hand (no gloves) and by machine in huge factories before being shipped off to petrol stations, cafes and supermarkets to be eaten by us. Although I'm sure there is nothing particularly bad about the ingredients being used, or how the factories are run - the photos of men and women in hairnets placing limp ham onto a slice of bread that someone earlier down the line had buttered really made my stomach turn.

But then again seeing anything on a massive factory scale is offputting.


And then of course there's the transportation issue.

We are well used to getting our bananas from Brazil and our pineapples from Costa Rica, but did you know that countries all over the world are importing and exporting almost identical quantities of food stuffs:


How can this even be a real thing?!

If you want to learn a little bit more watch this:

About 2 minutes in to this video you will hear Zac Goldsmith describe just how wasteful this model is - with English apples being exported all the way to South Africa to be waxed and then transported all the way back to England to be sold. It's hard to believe.

In all honesty this makes me feel a little bit hopeless, but I'm pretty sure if you have a chat to your local greengrocer or butcher they will have a fair idea about what comes from where and hopefully will be promoting some local farms. So we do what we can there I guess - and 'every little helps' as they say...

What to do

Massive factory farming, sandwiches created on conveyor belts, food made in a science lab - it's just not very appealing when you think about it is it? And whilst we can't all grow our own food in our back garden, we can think about how real and local it is when we are making food choices for our family. 

I know from experience it can all be a bit much when faced with the information and the changes we want to make, but I've started thinking about what I can do rather than what I can't. 

So more and more I am choosing 'real' food. Cakes can be made, muesli bars can be created, sandwiches can be thrown together at home, and easy dinners can be cooked from scratch from actual vegetables and 'happy' meat. 

If you want to make some changes but don't know where to start how about this life changing raw brownie from Emily at The Nest - grain, dairy and sugar free it ticks all the wholesome boxes if not the local ones, and proves that healthy treats can be delicious. Tried and test on my hugely fussy 6 year old who absolutely loves them (and obviously doesn't know what's in them).

And there's plenty more where that came from. I've also started a Real Food recipe board on Pinterest if you want to join me for the ride.

So s
orry kids, but it looks like I'm passing you on the family baton. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Little Sugar Loaf - things to do with kids in wicklow

The one good thing about living in a crappy grey climate like Ireland is that as soon as the sun comes out everyone, everywhere knows that you have to make the most of it.

Pre children this means multiple invites to garden barbecues, girl friends with white thighs walking around in shorts despite the fact that temperatures haven't actually hit double figures yet, afternoons spent in sunny beer gardens, and shiny red noses and shoulders wherever you look.

Post children - good weather simply means 'getting outdoors', because outdoor kids are generally happy kids, and who knew the absolute joy of sitting alone on a scruffy bench in a play park with a take away coffee and the warm sun on your back?

It's the little things.

Now that my kids are slightly older we get to do slightly more adventurous activities, so when the first sunshine of the year appeared the other week I was damn sure we weren't going to miss it.

At 2.30 I whooshed them out of school, into the car and drove up to The Little Sugar Loaf mountain (as opposed to The Big Sugar Loaf, which, you guessed it, is bigger).
The Big Sugar Loaf - as seen from The Little Sugar Loaf

This is such a great walk for little legs. With very minimal effort you get great rewards.

It's a nice gentle climb that the even the six year old took on without a bother, but it's interesting enough to keep them interested. Plus the views on the way up are almost as good as at the top.

Once at the summit you get to celebrate your achievement..

Be amazed when you find some actual fossils...

And then collapse...

Before taking in the stunning views of Bray, Greystones, the surrounding mountains and the twinkling Irish Sea.

Not so tough at the top

And then it's all down hill from there.

We got home just a couple of hours after leaving the school. The kids were refreshed and glowing, while I got to post a nice smug picture to Facebook from the top.

Happy days.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Healthy banana choc-chip muffins

I've been making these muffins for years. They are my go-to, easy baking recipe. The kids love them and they are full of goodness so are a win-win-win in my book.

Perfect for breakfast, after-school snack or lunchbox - just don't be surprised if they all disappear in one sitting.

This is also a lovely recipe to get the kids involved in as there are lots of little jobs for lots of little hands.


Dry ingredients:
150g finely ground wholemeal flour (or just plain flour if preferred)
1 heaped tsp baking powder
.5 tsp bicarbonate \ bread soda
75g chocolate chips \chopped up chocolate (or raisins and seeds to make it ultra healthy)
Pinch of salt

Wet ingredients:
2 large bananas
50ml Glenisk natural yoghurt (or other good quality natural yoghurt)
2 tbsp honey
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Sieve the dry ingredients (except the choc-chips) into a large bowl.
In a seperate bowl mash the bananas and mix in the rest of the wet ingredients.
Add the wet mixture and the choc-chips to the dry ingredients
 and gentry stir together.
Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases placed into muffin trays.
Bake for 15-20 mins and then leave to cool before eating.


Joining in with Glenisk and Irish Parent Bloggers in honour of being nominated in the IPBAwards.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Moving abroad – things to consider before you pack your bags

From a young age, I had always wanted to travel and explore the world. So that’s exactly what I did during my 20s. It was a wonderful time. An adventure that I will never forget.

Now a mum of 3, my hunger for travelling and need to expose my little ones’ impressionable minds to the world, and the opportunities that come hand-in-hand has only heightened.

It’s true what they say, there is a big wide world out there, full of wonder, experiences and beauty, why wouldn’t you want to share this with your kids? Not only does it expand your knowledge and vocabulary of the world around you but it also broadens your children’s minds, providing educational benefits that certainly cannot be taught in the classroom.

Having had a family adventure in Spain with my children, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share my experiences of expat living, the challenges that I faced, and what you should think about before embarking on your very own adventure.

There’s nothing quite like it, but if you are going to do it you need to ensure that you are safe, aware of the potential barriers and challenges you could face, but most importantly, ensure that you are in a sound financial position to accommodate this period of time in your life - when was the last time you checked your interest rates or took a long hard look at your credit score? After all, long term travel and expat living can be expensive, unpredictable and daunting if you fail to prepare for every eventuality.

But you should never be put off - with around 320,000 people leaving the UK to live abroad last year, you’ll be in good company if you decide to experience the many benefits of relocating. Here’s some advice and tips covering what you should think about before leaving the country for extended periods of time.

If you are planning on leaving the country, for work or pleasure, it’s important that you check the Visarequirements of the country that you are planning on visiting. Although all British Citizens do not require a Visa to move to countries that are part of the European Union, if you planning on broadening your horizons and travelling further afield, you should make sure that you complete the right application for the country you are travelling to.

For example, if you are planning on relocating or travelling to Australia or America, you will need a Visa. It’s also worth noting that, if you are planning on working in either of these countries, you will also need to prove that you are bringing a skill to their economy.

Have you considered the change in cost of living?

Before embarking on any long-term trip, it’s important that you have enough money put aside to support you, no matter what situation you find yourself in.

Finding work, accommodation, and securing a sustainable income is harder than you might think. Although living abroad can be a magical and eye opening experience, it can also be a living nightmare if you fail to prepare.

The cost of living varies from country to country, and every day amenities such as food, petrol, energy and general day-to-day living costs also vary, so it’s important that you do your research. Can your income sustain the cost of living in the country you are visiting? What are your chances of securing work?

Wherever you decide to move, there are always options and solutions. You shouldn’t let money put you off relocating but it’s important that you are well informed and aware of the potential barriers you might face. If you have a good idea of the costs involved and an understanding of the sources of income you will have, it will be much easier to plan for every eventuality. In some cases, this might mean looking at credit or finance options.

Remember that, if you move abroad and give up your UK address, it will be difficult for you to obtain credit within the UK as banks and credit card companies will not be able to undertake a credit check on you and consequently, will be unable to view your credit score. This is important as, without a valid credit score, you will not be eligible for any form of credit or loan.

With this in mind, it might be worthwhile thinking about possible credit options before you leave. If you are in a position to obtain credit (you can get more advice on this here and manage it correctly, then it might be beneficial to apply before you re-locate in order to prevent problems in case of an emergancy (of course, that doesn’t mean you ever have to use it!)
In addition to the financial aspects of the move, you also need to consider factors such as - if you are travelling with your children, will they adjust to their new surroundings and environment? Remember they will still need to attend school – will your plans accommodate this?

Language Barrier

Living abroad for substantial periods of time is very different to your standard two-week holiday.  You will be expected to integrate into the community you find yourself in and make the upmost effort to respect their culture, and of course communicate using their native language. This concept has always excited for me but for some people this fills them with dread.

Before you go, it might be worth taking the time to learn basic elements of the country’s language that you are travelling to. There are plenty of online tutorials that will provide you with the basic language skills to enhance your expat experience.

Disclosure: All sources from CreditExpert

Monday, March 30, 2015

10 stereotype mums at the school gate

Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. Usually they are an exaggeration of a nugget of truth, and stereotype mums are no different.

And now that it's the school holidays I think I'm brave enough to post this.

So how many of these have you spotted at the school gate?
1. PA Mum
Runs the school. You spend every drop-off and collection hiding from her in case she asks you to bake scones for the upcoming fundraiser. Always with clipboard in hand, she is admired and feared in equal measure.
2. Celtic Tiger Mum
Can’t quite get over the fact that her starter home turned out to be her forever home due to astronomic negative equity. Dresses her little darling in pinafores from Zara and Next because this was how it was supposed to be, God damn it! Hides her shopping bags and maxed-out credit cards from her knackered husband.
3. Glam Mum
Glam Mum always looks immaculate, with her twice-weekly blow dry and perfectly applied makeup. Drives a black 4WD and owns a golden retriever. Friends with Celtic Tiger Mum, who simultaneously hates her and wants to be her.

Me on the school run...

4. Keep-Fit Mum
Always in lyrca and still manages to look good. Bitch.
5. As Gaeilge Mamaí
Tá sí go hálainn ar fad! And isn’t little Fiachra so lucky to have a Mamaí who chats to him as gaeilge whenever anyone else is in listening distance?
6. Crusty Mum
With baby in a rainbow sling and another child trailing behind her in handknitted jumper and wellie boots, Crusty Mum is at one with her life. Tells you how much Willow loves to eat her delicious lentil and quinoa hotpot for lunch but secretly feeds her white-bread sandwiches after school. Exclusive to Educate Together school gates.
7. Working Mum
AKA late mum. Can be seen running down the road in heels five minutes after the bell has gone.
Knows all the children in the class by name and is practically best friends with the teacher. Stays on to help with arts and crafts in the mornings and randomly turns up with cupcakes for everyone. SAHM seems to be on top of it all, but is inwardly screaming 'HOW DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME?? I USED TO DO SHOTS IN BARS AND HAVE INAPPROPRIATE SEX WITH STRANGERS!'
9. Best Mum
Because she's better than all of you. She knows it, you know it, let's just leave it there.
10.  You
Because really you're a little bit of all of them.

This blogpost originally appeared on and is JUST A JOKE. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental. *cough*
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