Saturday, June 25, 2016

Camping with kids

There's something about camping. The space, the freedom, the crisp mornings and dark evenings. The getting back to nature and bonding over the silence and simplicity of living for a short time under a flimsy piece to material and a few poles.

I remember camping as a child and have nothing but amazing memories of it, and since it's a practically free mini family holiday I want to make sure my kids get the same experience.


What I needed was a tent that would hold myself and the three kids, and was easy enough to put up myself without having to go into damsel in distress mode.

Fortunately the lovely people at Millets chose the perfect one by Vango for me - spacious, comfy and simple.

We had our first test run last weekend at Body & Soul and it was big smiles and thumbs up from all of us.




What camping gives kids is the freedom to roam and explore. To lasso their imagination and shoot for the moon. To toast marshmallows and spend time star gazing. To wear wellie boots, pyjamas and dirty faces and play outside until darkness descends. To develop their independence and take on new tasks - carrying dirty dishes across great swathes of countryside to the communal kitchen all by their own self. To make new friends and spend endless hours kicking balls, flying kites and rolling down hills over and over and over again.


Somehow I had almost forgotten all that. This summer I intend to spend many mini trips reminding myself of it. 

Disclosure: I was sent a tent and camping chairs by Millets in exchange for my views. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Body & Soul 2016


We do love a good festival - and Body & Soul 2016 did not disappoint. 

Despite the weather being a bit of a mixed bag it's safe to say we all had an amazing weekend. The thing about festivals is that you pack so much into such a short space of time that it's almost impossible to know where to start explaining what you got up to. So when people ask you 'So, how was Body & Soul?' Your mind races through about ten thousand adventures that you got up to and then you give a very uninspiring 'Yeah, brilliant' response. 

So really it's probably better to just show some pictures and list some of the most memorable parts. Here goes...



Family camping area - tonnes of space!






Dance workshop


Free facepainting courtesy of Nobo






This is just a tiny bit of what we got up to...

Woodland walks and hidden stages
Aeroplane chairs and Helter Skelters
Crazy hay fights
Face painting
All the hats
Bonding with neighbouring tent dwellers
Good bands and bad dancing
Hot coffee and early mornings
PJs and wellie boots
Food trucks
Light shows
Experimental German accordian players
The girl with the big smile and the light up shoes
Bloody Marys
Crazy goggles
Hugs from strangers
That Swedish bloke from Trim (don't ask)
Giant bean bags and aching limbs
Hiding out for quiet time
And plenty of strangers with good karma coming their way




Despite the fact that I managed to miss every band I wanted to see, I came back supremely happy.

The overriding memories will be of quality time spent connecting with the kids and the goodness of so many of the young people that were there. Whether it was joining in armies of hay fighters, asking for cuddles from the kids, handing over money when the nine year old didn't have enough to buy his chosen bracelet, giving the 7 year old a packet of Oreos just for being cute, or, most importantly convincing the 12 year old she had cool parents (unheard of!) - this young generation of festival revellers had their hearts in the right place.

It was a lovely lesson in how I'd like to see my kids go through their teenage years (and we'll just bypass the ones that didn't go to bed at all, collapsed partially clothed on top of their actual tent, fell headfirst in the mud and stayed there for the entire day, got lost for the entire weekend dressed in a silver homemade fairy outfit, or got escorted from the toilets by Security, unconscious, dressed as Beetlejuice.). I guess their parents had high hopes from them too...

So thanks Body & Soul. It was a real experience!

Disclosure: I was provided with a weekend family pass in exchange for an honest review. All words, opinions and pictures are my own.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Saving money and the planet with IKEA


It's time for a final update on my Live Lagom challenge with IKEA. 

Back in December last year I was invited to take part in a sustainability project run by IKEA. It involved (responsibly *cough*) shopping for good in their store that would help me and my family to save money and save the planet by taking little steps on a journey towards sustainability. This is me with my haul. Spoilt brat I know.


I tried to focus on energy saving and making the home a warm and cosy place to be. Armed with rugs, duvets, lightbulbs, and state of the art cooking equipment it wasn't hard to do.


This is the shame of my bedroom before the project began. New bedding and green plants transformed the space from mess to rest. 

BEFORE


AFTER




Sidelights with energy saving LED lightbulbs are now used all over the house, as well as extension leads that can be turned off easily with the flick of a switch so power saving mode isn't continually used, and rechargeable batteries. Heating was also turned down and cooking times reduced significantly (by as much as 80% in fact). I haven't managed to calculate the exact savings due to the temperature of different months and the fact that I also changed to a cheaper supplier (one of the knock on effects of the project).

Another saving I've made is switching my bin collection from every two weeks to - wait for it - every 2 months, simply by being more organised and recycling properly.

However one of the major bonus for me was the aesthetic 'hygae' that the project brought. My home is now simply a cosier, nicer place to be. And, amazingly for me, is more organised too.



The kids are fully on board, running around shouting at each other for leaving lights on and having a real understanding of why a rechargeable battery is so much better than a throw-away-pollute-the-planet one. 

And we've ever started planting stuff. My favourite, Sweet Pea is currently taking root, and tomatoes, basil and parsley are all well under way. I have to say it's a little addictive. 


Looking back on all those baby steps I'd say we've come a long way with zero pain and lots of pleasure along the way. If you get a chance to Live Lagom a little I'd highly recommend you embrace it. There are tons of tips on Hubbub who are IKEAs charity partners on the mission. 


Enjoy and adjo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Great Western Greenway - Ireland's secret hidden gem



Now I say secret because as far as I was aware it was.

But like anything, once you know about something you start hearing more and more about it. And everything I heard about the Greenway was good. So last weekend we took the plunge and headed West.

The Great Western Greenway is in Mayo on the West of Ireland. It runs the 42k from Achill Sound to Westport on what used to be an old Victorian railway line. It is now a perfect cycle \ walking path taking in some unbelievable views along the way. Sweeping bays give way to patchwork fields with old stone walls and lazy rivers.




It was, in parts, indescribably beautiful, but there are only so many times you can stop to take out your camera, and anyway, it never does quite do justice to the vast views and echoing silence.





The route takes you past Newport and Mulranny and offers a number of pitstops along the way. And it's not just for the fit and healthy either. With bike shops offering you transport to the starting point of your choice, and pick ups if you happen to succumb to the pints of ice cold Bulmers in the blistering sunshine - it seems even Hen parties have been tempted along (with varying degrees of success so our driver informed us).

The Greenway is broken down into stages and you can go in either direction, or even there and back if you're feeling particularly energetic.


We bused it out to Achill, were given our bikes and then headed off to Mulranny 13k away. From there it's 18k to Newport, and then 11k back to Westport - leaving just time to shower, change and head out to dine with the locals and sit in on a session in Matt Molloys.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather, but I can definitely see why all the tourists flock to the West. There are almost too many pubs to choose from, world class food and the warmest of welcomes. All in all the most perfect weekend break you could hope for.

And best of all? After cycling 42k the booze and food are guilt free. Now you can't really argue with that.

Useful links:
Accomodation: Woodside Lodge B&B - perfect location, fabulous hosts, gorgeous house
Bike Rental: Clew Bay Bikes - bus from Westport to Achill and bike hire just €25
Restaurant: Sage - widely regarded as the best in town. The seafood is a must. 
Bars: Matt Molloys - regular sessions with local musicians, and barmen that remember your order from the night before.





Monday, April 18, 2016

21 random reasons to feel guilty (and 1 big one not to)

Motherhood and guilt. They seem to go hand in hand. From the first moment you realise you are pregnant and then remember that you got really pissed at that wedding two weeks ago - the guilt begins.

There's a never ending ebb and flow to it, and nothing, NOTHING, is too insignificant to bring it on.

You don't do crafts with them because you can't bear the mess.

You didn't sign them up to after-school sports because you couldn't face yet another collection time.

You go to work so are depriving them of the joys of a stay at home mum.

You don't go to work so are depriving them of a strong role model.

You're too shouty.

And grumpy.

And cross.

You feed them pasta every day because that's all they'll eat.

They never learnt guitar.

They watch too much TV.

And spend too much time on screens.

Which you aren't properly monitoring.

Because you spend too much time on screens.

You went out last night.

You can't afford to bring them on holiday.

You spoil them too much.

But you don't play with them enough.

You're too impatient.

Your house is too small.

You don't bake.


On and on and on it goes, an endless cycle in your head. Each age and stage brings different triggers but it never, ever abates.

Sometimes though, something big happens that puts all the other little things in perspective. And surprisingly it can change that never-ending carousel of guilt.

For me it came over two years ago when I was separating from their dad, a thing so momentous for a child that as a parent you could get buried under the weight of the guilt. Everything your children do and feel and say suddenly gets referred back to that fact, so that it becomes the go-to query for all of their behaviour. Is that why they are acting up \ angry \ withdrawn \ anxious \ tearful? Cue guilt-fest.

Of course you could beat yourself up with it forever if you wanted to, but a wise friend told me right at the start of my journey not to bother.

She impressed upon me that as long as children have unconditional love and are supported and hugged and smothered in that love, then they will be fine.

So you can be stressed and grumpy and shouty at times, you can be separated or unemployed or too goddamn tired to smile, but then, when you all cuddle up on the sofa and spend the next
20 minutes looking into each others eyes trying to come up with something bigger than all the grains of sand on every beach in the universe to explain how much you love each other - then you realise that they will be ok. Because you know you love them. And they know you love them.

And nothing else is really that important after all.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spreading the Joy

Sometimes all people need in order to get on with their lives is a helping hand, a leg up, a push in the right direction.

I know because I've been there myself - not in a life or death situation, but in enough strife that had I not had that support I might have gone under.

Oxfam are well aware of this too. Why? Because they have been helping people help themselves for decades. Since 1942 in fact. That's a whole lot of knowledge and expertise earned.

One of their wonderful campaigns at the moment is empowering women in Bangladesh through chilli farming - teaching them to make a living for themselves. Sounds so simple, and really it is. That's the beauty of it.

Let me introduce you to Joygun. Not only does she have the best name in the world ever, she is also a formidable force in her own right.

Just look at that smile - lives up to her awesome name right?


Joygun is a member of the chilli producer group, and has received training on growing and selling chillies. Chilli farming has given her confidence and self-belief and her husband now recognises the important contribution she makes to the household income.

She is also a vice president of the local (CBO) community-based organisation. In her own words she says -

“I’ve benefited a lot from growing chillies. I now eat better than I used to before. I wouldn’t be able to eat before but I’m getting good quality food now. I now have some disposable income to spend on things like chicken and fish.” 

'I wouldn't have been able to eat before'.

Think about that for a moment. As a mother you can bet that Joygun made sure her children got whatever food was available - how wonderful to turn that story into such a powerful one.



Oxfam says:
This area in Bangladesh is now famous for producing chillies of the right colour, taste, heat and size for many Bangladeshis across the country. Oxfam has helped the farmers to form producer groups which pool their resources (such as labour and land), and their chillies.

So how can we help more women like Joygun?

Here's what a regular donation can do:

€9 can provide a family with manure, organic fertiliser and training in eco-friendly farming techniques.
€24 can provide a family with the tools, seeds and training to set up an allotment, helping them to feed themselves.

Empowering people to help themselves is key to a sustained solution. A regular gift to Oxfam changes lives around the world. By giving a monthly donation you can help transform whole communities, for good.

You can donate here. Please think about it.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The most beautiful driving routes in Ireland

It's official! Ireland's most beautiful drive has been announced via public vote by Chill.ie.

But not only that - they've put together a really and truly lovely free e-book for you, that not only announces the winner but gives lots of other popular and memorable drives from all over Ireland too.

But not only that - yours truly has managed to get featured with my favourite route (surprise, surprise it's Wicklow - but they don't call it the Garden of Ireland for nothing).

Here's how it looks - and having had a sneak peak I can tell you that all the others are equally as impressive.


To see the drive which was voted in at number one, plus all the other beautiful suggestions, pop over to Chill.ie for your totally free copy.



Disclosure: This is post is in collaboration with Chill.ie
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