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Month: October 2016

What Not To Worry About #5

What Not To Worry About #5

Happy Monday folks!

 

I have to admit, waking up in a cottage by the sea in Cork is not a bad way to start a week! We’ve been lucky to call this place home for the last few days while we’ve been enjoying the Jazz Festival and taking mini excursions before cosying up by the best log fire of all time in the evenings. It’s been pretty wonderful!

 

Andrew and I are firm believers in the importance of getting away for a few days to shower the head and completely unwinding from normal daily stresses. This doesn’t mean paying out bucket loads for a city break or flying away but just packing up the car and taking off to a cottage somewhere that doesn’t cost a fortune and definitely less than a night out in the city. This wee cottage in Cork has been a real gem and only cost us 90 euro for 3 nights – bargain!

 

After a very chilled out weekend I feel refreshed but I’m fully aware that once I step back in to the house this evening I will start searching for things to stress me out e.g. no food in the house, have I got clean clothes for work tomorrow, blah blah shite. I think in the back of my mind though I’m conscious of a more important date that’s coming up soon which is my sister’s anniversary. On Saturday it will be 6 years since Amy passed and it’s hard to say whether that time has flown or it feels too short.

 

Grief is a weird thing and for me it can’t be measured by time because it doesn’t actually get easier, I think we just grow accustomed to the pain. I will be writing a post later in the week about how grief has affected me in my life because although I know no two experiences are the same, it’s always nice to read that we’re not alone in those moments where it all feels a little scary.

 

This week I am going to go extra easy on myself because I know certain things might be a little more frustrating than usual. Here’s a few I’m going to try out…

 

Not calling my friends enough – I always get the guilts when I realised I haven’t spoken to a friend in a while but the truth is I’m terrible on the phone. I much prefer frequent emails and then a good long catch up in person but I need to put my effort in with phonecalls.

 

Cancelling a yoga class an hour after booking it – I do this at least once a month and give myself crap about it after. It’s just so hard once I’ve had dinner and find myself barricaded with cosy blankets. Ain’t my fault.

 

Having chicken for dinner 3 nights in a row – Might be seen as a lack of imagination but I will choose to view at as a choice made by someone who just really likes chicken.

 

Traffic Karma – I worry about being a bad person when I refuse to let the learners or the elderly out in front of me but the truth is I just don’t have the patience to be a nice person on the way to work in the mornings!

 

Expecting too much from myself – I am definitely going to apply this to my life more especially this week. Instead if I don’t have the energy to cook or clean, I just won’t that day.

 

So, those are the things that I will refuse to get in to my head and fester in to needless worriment this week! What are the silly worries you’re choosing to give up today? Would love to hear them!

 

Have a super duper week 🙂

My Top 5 Beaches near Belfast

My Top 5 Beaches near Belfast

You’re probably wondering why on earth I’m writing a post about beaches in the guts of Autumn, when the beaches are abandoned and avoided for fear of whiplash from the sea winds, but I think this is almost the best time to explore our coastline. There is something about standing on a beach, feeling the hair whip around your face while breathing in the salty air that seems to lift the weight of the world off your shoulders. At times when I feel overwhelmed and I feel I can’t escape my own thoughts, the only place that will subdue me and sweep away the worries is the beach.

 

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^^ Obviously not Ireland but inserted for my own torture ^^

I grew up in Armagh so the only time I got to a beach was during the summer or when we went abroad. It wasn’t until I lived in Australia that I learned how hearing the waves crashing against the beach could have a powerful affect on me. Any time I felt overcrowded when I lived there, I would get in the car and drive to the nearest beach, park myself in the sand and watch the sea pull back and forth from the coast for hours. It’s funny how at a time when I felt like I was drowning I was actually drawn to the sea to calm me.

 

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Now that I’m home I’m not quite as free to jump in and let the water envelope me like I did back in Oz but the draw is still there. We’re lucky to live within a 10 minute drive of some lovely beaches and I have been able to take full advantage of losing myself for an hour or two by the Irish Sea. Sometimes I bring Andrew along with me so we can catch up on our days and most of the time I will insist that I take my shoes off so I can feel the sand beneath me. Other times I’ll come on my own with a blanket or towel, watch the ferries slowly gliding out of the Lough and wonder how many people have sat where I have over the years, thinking the same thoughts and seeing the same things. Those waves have surely swallowed many tears.

 

If you’re in need of some inspiration, I’ll clue you in on a few spots close to where we are in Belfast and a bit further beyond. There are hundreds of beautiful beaches around the northern coastline but these are just a few of my favourites…

 

Helen’s Bay

This my hiding place. I will take myself off here and do a bit of a yoga, reading or just staring at other people’s dogs so I can play with them. Not pathetic at all but I hope that if Andrew sees my pitiful ‘I reallllly want a dog’ face for the millionth time he might give in. It’s only about a 10 minute drive for Belfast so it’s perfect for us city slickers when we need a decent head shower. Crawfordsburn Park is right behind the beach as well and is a great place to take cover if the rain ever descends.

 

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Seapark

Just beside Holywood, Seapark is a bit of coastline that makes a great wee walk and takes you past the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club – a century old institution with original buildings. Watching the yachtsmen haul their boats in after a day at sea is quite lovely and I like to walk out to the end of the jetty so I get a good view of our wee Belfast.

 

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Groomsport

About 25 mins from Belfast, Groomsport is a very cute village with a lovely harbour hidden within it. The beach is small but delivers just what is needed along with plenty of places for a wee ice cream after. Even if it does have to be eaten in the car because it’s Baltic outside.

 

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Murlough Bay

Without doubt my favourite beach in the North! It’s to be found just outside Newcastle so about 50 minutes drive from Belfast. It’s a perfect sandy stretch you can reach after climbing over some very old dunes and once you’ve reached the top, you can look up to find the Mourne Mountains towering over you. It is everything I love about Ireland – wild and vacuous that makes you feel like you’re the first person to discover it.

 

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Ballygally Beach

About a half hour north of Belfast, this wee beach is found along the Causeway Coastal Route. We stayed in a haunted tower within the hotel across the road back in January which was so beautiful. In the morning we walked along the beach in the freezing cold, blinded by the white mountains covered in snow. In the summer it’s a little more accommodating but I loved that feeling of numbness taking over my face and ears and breathing in the freshest air.

 

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So tell me, have you got any favourite beaches of your own that you escape to?

 

 

 

What Not To Worry About #4

What Not To Worry About #4

Hello again Monday faces! How are the heads this morning? Did we all bounce out of bed ready for the week ahead? Not so much? Yeh me neither. As hard as I have tried over the years to become one of those people who leap in to upward facing dog as dawn breaks while sipping on my peppermint tea, I just haven’t grasped the morning buzz yet. In reality, I drag myself from my cocoon after the third snooze leaving myself a half hour to rush my breakfast, figure out what I’m going to wear whilst getting pissed off that I have nothing to wear and having a quick chat with a semi-conscious Andrew.

 

This week I’m counting the days down to the weekend which isn’t necessarily a good way to start the week but I have a  really good reason though! On Friday I’m being reunited with a dear friend of mine from Australia who I have missed since the day I left nearly two years ago. Holly is staying for a few weeks and we’re kicking off her introduction to Ireland with a weekend in Cork and I am BEYOND EXCITED!!! I’ve booked a wee cottage on the beach a half hour from Cork City and I’ve planned for us to visit the Jazz Festival, take lots of drives to seaside villages and have plenty of walks on the beach followed by beers by the fire #priceless.

 

With so much to look forward to, I’m keeping a big positive head on me and I’m choosing not to let certain things bug or worry me, such as…

 

The last episode of GBBO – if you don’t know the acronym then we have nothing in common, I’m very sorry. Man I am gutted that the show will be over soon but I guess I’m just going to have to Youtube all of Mary Berry’s other shows so I don’t go in to complete withdrawal.

 

The appearance of Christmas paraphernalia in October – I am the Christmasiest person out there with so much festive cheer I have tinsel comin’ out of my freakin’ ears but I will not get on board with Christmas jumpers being sold alongside pumpkins. It’s just a complete holiday overload and it is beyond ridiculous. Leave it until at least November folks.

 

Cursing in front of the in-laws – I said shit in front of Andrew’s Dad by accident on Saturday and I have died of embarrassment on the hour every hour ever since. As I said it I completely forgot the rest of my sentence as my brain glazed over in sheer horror. His parents are quite a polite pair while I was raised by cursing sailors. Although I usually mind my language around them, I guess I’m getting a little too comfortable which explains how my real choice of words came tumbling out of my mouth. He didn’t acknowledge the foul word and I am going to try and not let that kind of thing stress me out so much in the hope they’ll embrace my colourful language. Or maybe I just won’t speak to them ever again.

 

My eyebrows – they are a curly mess but yet I’m a lazy hallion with no desire to pay some woman £15 every few weeks to tame them. Instead I over-tweeze the life out of them and slather vaseline across them in the hope they might stay down for more than an hour. I really could just spend the money but what fun would that be?

 

Having crap halloween decorations – unless I can count the cobwebs as decorations and pretend they’re there on purpose? We live on a street with lots of children so I’ll put the effort in with one pumpkin at the door. The scamps better appreciate it.

 

Have a great week guys! Get lots of horror movies on the go, carve a few pumpkins if you feel like it and definitely eat all the sweets you bought for the trick or treaters. Sure they love oranges anyway!!

What Not To Worry About #3

What Not To Worry About #3

Hello Monday heads! I hope all of us manage to get out of bed now the mornings are a little colder and bed seems like the perfect place to be! I’m not a fan of the mad dash to towards my dressing gown and slippers but at least it’s one of way waking me up a little faster!

 

Entering winter can feel a bit daunting sometimes especially when it feels like the only sunshine to be seen is threw the office window but it’s important to appreciate the things that come along with the darker evenings. Wrapping up in scarves and hats to meet friends with the cold biting at your ears and nose, cooking big batches of soup to see you through the week, hot chocolates by the fire – these are all the things I relish in the colder months.

 

This week instead of bothering yourself about the silly things, plan something fun for yourself this Monday that will help you feel motivated for the week ahead. Maybe a wee yoga or meditation class, a coffee date with a mate you haven’t seen in ages or a try out a winter recipe you’ve been looking forward to making? It’s the small things that pick us up but we need to look for them, especially at the beginning of the week anyway!

 

This week I’m not going to get worked up about..

 

Refusing to get rid of candles even when they have gone beyond their days of burning – I have candles strewn about my house even though there isn’t a drop of wax left in them but because I spent money on them I treat them as ornaments (much to Andrew’s delight).

Leaving it to the last minute to get petrol – I’ve heard this isn’t too healthy for your car but as a girl who hasn’t even washed her car since she got it in January, I find myself constantly waiting until the moment the indicator has dropped below the red light. Every time.

Never being able to find a decent pair of tights – How come I buy about twenty pairs every winter but in the morning when I need them most I can only find the pair with wee balls all over the legs and ladders at the ankles???

Never remembering faces or names – I’m so terrible at this and it’s gotten to the point where I just nod and say “Aye I know them well”.

Breaking up my day with tea breaks – The only way I can make my way through the day is knowing exactly when my next cup of tea will be (blame my mother the tea addict).

 

Take it easy this week and I hope it’s a good one!

 

 

Homemade Autumn Wreath

Homemade Autumn Wreath

I have heard that the eskimo have many many words which can be translated as ‘snow’. This is something that we Irish can identify with since in Ireland there are about a million different kinds of descriptions for rainfall. Lying on the edge of Europe has left us vulnerable to the elements, the Atlantic battering us with whatever remnants she has left of a forgotten hurricane or storm. We are at her mercy and as a result we have rain in our blood and in our conversations as our lives and decisions are so determined by the presence and absence of it.

 

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The different kinds of rain can be welcomed or dreaded depending on the time of year or the character of the rain itself. There is the torrential sun shower which is revered since it breaks up a rare stint of solid sunshine that is at first embraced by everyone but is soon complained about because “it’s almost too hot, you know?”. This kind of rain falls fast and hard but it is fleeting like a first love, the perfect kind of rain really and if you’re lucky there might be some thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure.

 

Soft rain is probably my least favourite for it is incessant and soaks through slowly. My Mum would always say it’s the most dangerous since it can fool you in to thinking you’re not actually all that damp. This rain reminds me of the days I used to play camogie because it would never be enough to call off a game but yet the hurl would be slipping through my fingers constantly making it even more difficult than usual to play (I was never that good).

 

There is also the horizontal rain that is usually accompanied by gale winds that will practically lift you off your feet and make going outside feel like preparing for an expedition. There’s the rain that that doesn’t leave for days and makes you forget what the sky looks like. The rain that leaves a welcome chill in the air. The rain that makes it more humid and sticky than before it came. The rain that threatens for hours to come and will the moment you decide to leave the house.

 

Autumn brings with it all kinds of rains and although I’m sad that the weekends where every moment can be spent outdoors are more than likely over, I secretly love that I am now having to be a little more creative with how I choose to spend my precious days off while the rain is insistently persistent outside. My crafternoons are a selfish joy of mine and even though I’m not artistic in any way, I love creating things that I can display or give as wee gifts.

 

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I’m a Pinterest fiend (you can follow my boards here) and saw someone posted an Autumn wreath that looked amazing but easy – right up my alley! So last Saturday I took myself off to Holywood for a browse through the florist and picked up some eucualyptus, a chrysanthemum and some wire for my own wreath. That evening I sat at the table waiting for dinner to cook with some friends, and some wine of course, and made it all on my own! I was relieved at how easy it was – and how great it looked! – and it’s now sitting proudly above my fireplace.

 

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Yes the rain is here and yes it might stop us from exploring the places we want go at times but instead of complaining I plan on taking advantage of the days to be spent indoors. I might get plenty more projects on the go. I might bake more. I might even start knitting. Or I might not do any of those things except just sit by the fire, wrap myself in a big blanket, keep an ear to the window and listen to the rain. No matter what kind it is.

 

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Autumn Wreath

  • Few long branches of eucalyptus
  • One chrysanthamum
  • Few wires

There is not much in way of method here except just bind the eucalyptus and wire around each other in a circle! I used a few lengths of wire and curled the ends behind leaves to disguise them but using a few wires helped bend a little better. I just cut the stem a couple of inches below the flower at an angle and poked it between a section that looked a bit bare. I dipped the stem in sugar in the hope it might help the flower stay alive a little longer but I’m not sure if this actually works or not!!!

 

Happy crafting!!

What Not To Worry About #2

What Not To Worry About #2

How the flip did it get to Monday so quickly?! The weekend seemed to be over in a blink of an eye and I’m now staring down the barrel of a week full of gatherings, writing and evenings spent crafting candles for the winter.

This week in the series of things I think we need to stop caring so much about, I’m focusing on the importance of mental wellbeing. Today is World Mental Health Day so it’s a good opportunity to take time to give ourselves a pat on the back for getting up on this dark, grey Monday morning and dressing up as responsible adults. It’s not always easy and we should all understand that’s OK to feel a little overwhelmed by the tiniest of adulting, especially on a Monday when we feel like delicate little flowers.

Here’s a few things I am choosing to not get me down or fester in the back of my overactive brain this week – or altogether!

Going to the gym just so I can eat a bowl of popcorn and not feel guilty – food is a huge motivator in my regime and I’m not afraid to share that

Hashtagging too much on Instagram – I only wish I could hashtag more but unfortunately for me (and fortunately for my followers) there is a limit

Filling every evening with activities – I give myself the guilts when I do nothing in the evenings other than cook dinner but I’m starting to realise that just hanging out with Andrew watching The Fall is just as productive as an evening crafting, baking or going out

Not changing the bed sheets every week –  I sometimes let this slide I admit but now we’re in to autumn and the days of drying outside are pretty much over, I try not to have a continual rotation of sheets hanging in the living room and feel like we live in a laundry

Being cheerful – I’m a pretty happy person the majority of the time but sometimes I don’t always feel like smiling or being super nice to everyone. We all try to be the best version of ourselves every day but putting on a mask can be tiring and it shouldn’t be a weakness to be true to yourself and tell people how you’re actually feeling. I’m not saying you should spill your guts out to the person serving you your lunch but maybe when you see a friend this week or a colleague in work picks up that you might be a little stressed, let them know if you’re not in the best of tune because there is nothing wrong with honesty.

 

I hope your week is a great one and maybe in the spirit of Mental Healthy Day you can try to be a little kinder to yourself, even for a day. Because if we’re kinder to ourselves we can be kinder to others and there is absolutely no harm in that 🙂

 

Have a great week!

Down in the Orchard County: An Armagh Apple Tart Recipe

Down in the Orchard County: An Armagh Apple Tart Recipe

While I was growing up in Armagh, I never fully appreciated the landscape that surrounded our wee town because I was too busy being a moody teenager and showing too much enthusiasm for anything would have been detrimental to my social reputation. Now that I’m older and realise that I will never be cool, I eagerly await the harvest season when the countryside comes to life and the orchards, for which the county is known for, are teeming with fruit.

 

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Armagh is famous for its apples with the Armagh Bramley being the most common variety to be grown throughout the county. The history of apple growing in Armagh dates back around 3000 years with St Patrick himself planting an apple tree at Ceangoba, an ancient settlement found outside the city, so a love of apples is expected amongst those of us born and bred here!

 

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Luckily we have a friend whose family own an apple orchard so we are able to go down at this time of year and pick our own apples to take home. Picking or gathering your own fruit and vegetables is always so rewarding and being able to turn them in to a delicious meal makes it that bit more special. I have been wanting to make my own apple tart for a while so last Saturday we booked in a few hours of pickin’ down at the Glass Orchard just outside of Loughgall.

 

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Andrew and I drove down and met up with Marianne and Fergus, two lovely new friends of ours who were delighted to get a day out of the city and in to the orchard. Marianne is a photographer and all the photos in this post were taken by her. She’s got a great eye for it and has started branching out in to engagement and wedding photography so make sure and follow her Instagram page here if you want to see more!

 

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The weather was amazing considering it was the first day of October –  we had the suns on our backs the whole time and not an umbrella in sight! Even got a go being pushed on a tree swing which I haven’t done since I was a child and was like a giddy 5 year old as I was getting higher in the air.

We gathered a basketful of Bramleys along with some plums and a wee sneaky box of Katy apples that our friend’s Dad smuggled in to my car as I was leaving. Naturally my Mum confiscated the box of Katy’s the divil so I was left with a dozen Bramleys for my tart!

 

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We had a friend over for dinner last night so it was a great opportunity to get baking. I decided to try a smooth tart recipe – pureed apple makes me feel like a happy little baby and tastes amazing! It was also extremely easy especially since I was a complete cheater and bought ready made pastry! Please don’t judge me.

 

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The tart went down well thankfully with everyone although it was a little runny so bowls had to be used! Still so many apples to use though so I think I might have to bake up some more treats this week – let me know if you have any recommendations on how I can use them up!

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Homemade Apple Tart

Ingredients

  • 3 Bramley apples, peeled, cores removed, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 450g/1lb ready-made puff pastry
  • 1 free-range egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 Bramley apple, peeled, cores removed, thinly sliced
  • 75g/3oz butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar

To Serve

  • vanilla ice cream
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Method