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Month: January 2017

What Not To Worry About #12

What Not To Worry About #12

Here we are, edging in to the second month of the year but more importantly, edging closer to Spring. As much as I have been enjoying the slower evenings and spending more time on things I tend to neglect in the warmer months, I’m looking forward to brighter days and being able to venture outside more during the week. I can feel a little caged in when I don’t get out to stretch my legs after a day at a desk and breathe in fresh air. We’re nearly there though and the appearance of the snowdrops is the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

I hope you all were able to venture out a little and enjoy another weekend of wonderful winter weather. I was down in Armagh again spending some time with friends, especially one friend in particular who suffered a sad loss this week. It’s never easy having a friend in the circle who is going through something painful but when I looked around at the women I have grown up with coming together to be there for one of us, it filled me with so much gratitude. It’s rare to have the same friends you had when you were 13 and I am so aware of how lucky we are.

 

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Andrew and I took some time with his niece and nephew on Saturday and braved the madness of a playground – whose bright idea was it to install ONE infant swing?! It was great craic watching them go up and down the same slide a hundred times and staring in awe as the big kids ran past them. At three and two they’re at such a fun age and I get all wobbly when they reach for my hand or cuddle in to my chest – hello hormones.

 

Saturday night was our first night out in Belfast in a long while and I felt a little rusty at drinking to say the least. I bought tickets to see James Vincent McMorrow who was playing at the iconic Ulster Hall and who happens to have the voice of a bearded angel  We amazingly managed to score unreserved front row seats so I was within arms reach of this glorious man – quite dangerous. We had a grand old time however it is apparent that wine can hit me like a speeding truck and I was ready for home by 12 – I definitely do not still have it. I awoke to empty sweet wrappers by my bedside and the Sahara in my mouth so I quickly made a mental note to swiftly avoid wine in the near future.

 

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My Sunday went pretty much uphill from there as I spotted blue skies with my bloodshot eyes. I downed about 10 litres of water and had a shower to feel a little more human again before donning my comfy shoes for a wee spin to the seaside. Groomsport is a wee village about 20 minutes from us and it’s where I like to go when I fancy imaginary house-shopping. My dream is to live on the coast one day so I live out this little fantasy by strolling along the pier and pretending I’m a local.

 

After our coastal jaunt we went grocery shopping on empty stomachs which is never a good idea. Prime example is us coming out laden with ingredients to make a full roast dinner for two people. No regrets though as I wolfed down a massive plate piled high with roasted deliciousness! I recuperated after the feast by not moving from the sofa except for a few dozen cups of tea and cookies. I have the life of it really.

 

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In light of a pretty lovely weekend I intend on extending the loveliness to this week because as the wise Roald Dahl once said, “if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely’. To help start the week a little more positively, I am choosing to let go these not-so-positive thoughts…

 

Returning Festive Purchases

I am the Queen of Never Returning Items. I have them in the bag with the receipt all ready to go but it’s the act of physically putting them in my car and taking them to the shop that I seem to have the most trouble with. I curse myself every time I clock the bag in the hall and I know I’ll end up taking the clothes to a charity shop in a few years with the tags still on them.

 

Unmade Beds

There are a few things I’m not fond of and one of them is getting in to an unmade bed after a long day. I’m not sure why but there is something so welcoming about a bed that looks tidy and clean and ready to be snuggled in to. The problem is that Andrew starts work later than I do so the chance of me coming home to a made bed is nil as the man gives himself about 10 seconds to get ready for work. I’ve gotten in to a routine of making the bed as soon as I’m home which Andrew seems to think is the work by elves.

 

Finishing a TV Series

I’ve a confession: I have had a major obsession with Downton Abbey since Christmas. I had heard a lot of people talking about the show but never thought it would be something I’d enjoy but it turns out I love a good period drama. I finished the last series during the week and I’ve been in mourning since. I’m going to have to find a replacement so if you have any suggestions, please send them my way!

 

Doing Make Up in the Dark

Brighter mornings not only perk me up before I head to work but they also guarantee a face that looks half made. On these dark winter mornings I have to rely on a crappy bulb to change from ghost to human which isn’t so easy. Hurry up spring!!

 

The Man Pile

The pile of clothes on Andrew’s side of the bed makes me weep as I step over them to make the bed after work. He just sheds his clothes like a snake and lets the pile accumulate all week. I bite my tongue and try not to nag too much because that wouldn’t be lovely. Instead I kick them out of sight and and hope that they’ll find their own way to the washing machine.

 

And that’s it for this week! I hope a great one lies ahead of you!

 

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Local Favourites: Armagh

Local Favourites: Armagh

Up here in the North we have the fortune of having scores of towns and villages that can be so full of character and yet can go unnoticed by so many who may only live a few miles away. Cobbled streets and buildings older than Australia are just on our doorsteps however we choose to keep our heads down and take for granted what we have in front of us. I have decided to put some of my favourite towns in the spotlight to help encourage a little appreciation for these gems in our own backyard.

 

I live in Belfast but I’m an Armagh girl born and bred so I’ve chosen the Cathedral City as the first in this new series. Although the town is technically a city, the population is only around 15,000 so it can’t exactly be described as a metropolis. There was definitely a small-town vibe growing up here; I knew most people when I walked through the streets and I always felt incredibly safe even when I was a teenager running amok. Nowadays I feel a little more like an outsider after living away for so long but I think this allows me to see the town in a different light and admire the qualities of the Armagh I grew up in.

 

Here are the things I love most about my hometown…

 

Architecture

Armagh is built on seven hills which can be hard on the old thighs but can give you wonderful perspectives of the city and it’s countryside. The most notable buildings are of course the two cathedrals which dominate the Armagh skyline like two imposing grandfathers. Both cathedrals are named after St. Patrick (he was a popular man in these parts) however the older cathedral belongs to the Church of Ireland denomination and the younger is Roman Catholic. I adore both of these buildings for different reasons. The older dates back to 445 AD and has withstood monumental changes in Irish history – it even has a High King of Ireland in it’s grounds! The younger cathedral which dates back to the 19th century is also special because my own family history is tied to it. My parents were married here, I was christened here, made my first Communion and Confirmation here and I said goodbye to my sister all in the same colossal space. It’s gothic walls contain so many local memories within them and the intricate ceilings have my jaw hanging open every time.

 

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St. Patrick’s Cathdedral (The Older)

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral (The Younger)

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Armagh is also know for it’s Georgian architecture which can be best found around The Mall. The Mall is a public space with the Gaol on one end and the Court House on the other. Alongside it there are some beautiful Georgian houses as well as the Armagh County Museum – the oldest county museum in Ireland! Another example of some Georgian architecture is the local library found on Market Street where you can pick up a few spuds, a carpet and a bunch of flowers if the mood takes you.

 

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Georgian House by The Mall – swish!

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The Library on Market Street – a great place to people watch!

The Palace Demesne is another great place to explore especially during Autumn. The grounds are lined with trees that turn the most amazing colours around October and behind the palace itself are some gardens that many locals don’t even know about. By the gates of the Palace you can find ruins of a Franciscan friary which is a great place to take some snaps before nipping to Friar Tuck’s across the road (it’s a fast food joint so don’t get your hopes up).

 

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The Palace from the Palace Gardens

History

Armagh was named after the ancient goddess Macha (the Gaelic translation of Armagh is “Ard Mhacha” or “Macha’s Height”) who appears in a few different Irish myths. My favourite story of Macha is when she appears as a wife to Cruinniuc who boasted at a chariot race that she could run faster than even the King’s own horses. She begged him not to but she was forced to run despite her carrying twins. She won the race and gave birth on the finish line to Fir and Fial which means ‘True’ and ‘Honest’. She then cursed the men of Ulster to suffer her labour pains in the hour of their greatest need. What a woman!

 

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Armagh was also once the ancient capital of Ireland and you can actually witness a little piece of that history by visiting the Navan Fort, a ceremonial monument that was a royal site in Pre-Christian Ireland. There is a visitor centre here that has lots of information on the importance of this site and you can climb to the top and imagine yourself as a Gaelic warrior looking out over your lands. Or you can just take a wee photo for Instagram.

 

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Me pretending to be an Irish warrior

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View from the Navan Fort

Food

For breakfast you can’t beat a bagel and Armagh has the infamous Bagel Bean to ensure you start the day off well. There are now two Bagel Bean’s in Armagh on Market Street and English Street in case you needed a choice but most importantly the bagel you have to choose is the BC because it is AMAZING! They do some pretty tasty smoothies too in case you need to wash it down with something nutritious.

 

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There are more and more wee lunch spots popping up around Armagh including the Craic’d Pot which is an absolute gem. It’s not like anything else in town and to top it all off it moonlights as a wine bar at night – hurrah! Other great places include Embers and Rumours that both serve hot food that will warm your tummy in the chilly weather. The 4 Vicars is another wee gem that’s behind the Church of Ireland cathedral. It’s a tea room with quaint decor and great views at the back.

 

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If you find yourself in Armagh to catch a play or concert at the Market Place Theatre you will surely need to refuel beforehand. The Moody Boar is a favourite of mine even just for the surroundings alone. The restaurant is in the Palace Stables and the courtyard is just a little bit lovely on the off chance you get some good weather – and the food is super tasty! For a good steak then the Aussie restaurant Uluru won’t disappoint or The Castle Tower both a stone’s throw from the theatre for the wino’s amongst you.

 

If you are a hallion like me and might still have room for something sweet after a day of eating then please head to Macari’s for ice cream. The place is an institution in Armagh and I will forever have space for a tub of vanilla ice cream topped with melted marshmallow (insert pig emoji here).

 

Craic

Armagh is not short of pubs although there are a few that I would recommend more than some. Red Ned’s is an establishment that is a regular for many in the town. It’s argued they serve the best pint of Guinness in the town and they have regular folk and traditional music in the corner to keep the spirits up.

 

The Hole in the Wall is another classic and has been voted Pub of the Year on numerous occasions. The pub is set in an old jail that dates back to 1615, hence the bars on the windows, and is steeped in history. The pub is said to be haunted but what should give you more of a fright is the pub’s pet parrot, Casper, who will scare the bejaysus out of you when you come through the door!

 

Space

The beauty of a small town is that you don’t have to travel too far to be surrounded by fields and silence. There are a few beautiful locations so close to town where you can shower the head and see the county countryside at it’s best. Since Armagh is the Orchard County of Ireland, I have to recommend a visit during the apple blossom season in May when the county’s roadsides turn different shades of pink. Come again in September when the apples are ready for pickin’ and you get some of the best weather of the year.

 

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Some other great spaces are Gosford Forest Park or The Argory which is pictured below – no matter how many times I was dragged to this place for school trips I still love it.

 

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Well that’s Armagh in a nutshell. If you haven’t had a dander around the streets of saints and scholars yet then I hope this post might give you a bit of encouragement to get in the car and make the trip. It will be well worth it I promise 🙂

What Not To Worry About #11

What Not To Worry About #11

Hello fellow Monday morning heads. Here we are again, summoning the energy we recuperated (or depleted) at the weekend with the days packed ahead of us. Never fear though because all we need is a good cup of tea/coffee and a clear head to start us off on the right foot. I read this article yesterday which has given me the encouragement to get up a little earlier in the mornings which is something I’ve been trying to do for a while so I’m not stumbling about in a dazed panic trying to make breakfast and remember to put a bra on. Wish me luck!

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The weekend was a great one although nothing too wild which is in keeping with my quiet year so far. I had a catch up with a couple of friends on Friday evening which was just what I needed after what felt like the longest working week of my life. I had my first drink of wine of the year (three weeks without alcohol – new record I think!) which was delicious with my friend Caoimhe’s feta stuffed chicken. I begged for the recipe, a little tipsily, which she kindly wrote on a post-it note and which I will fail to replicate later this week! She’s such an amazing cook and I keep begging her to start a food blog even just so I take photos in exchange for her food.

 

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I watched the sunrise on Saturday morning from my wee sister’s spare room and nearly bounced out of bed when I saw blue skies -BLUE SKIES! We have been under thick grey cloud all week and even though the cold could’ve bit the nose off you, seeing clear skies and frost dusting the grass made me so happy. I took Shannon’s cocker spaniel Bella to The Argory (a wonderful National Trust site a few miles from Armagh) and I have never seen a dog run so much in my life. There really isn’t many things as heartwarming as seeing a dog so happy to just be outside although to be fair I think I was just as happy.

 

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We walked around the grounds, suffering a near-death experience in the process when Bella thought she was just jumping in to a shuck when in reality it was a frozen stream which she fell right through. I laughed for a second (forgive me) but then I saw her wee face and felt terrible and scooped her out quickly. She wasn’t too fazed though and ran on ahead to my relief before I took her home to get blow-dryed (the dog is a diva just like her owner).

 

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I had lunch at the Craic’d Pot (a great new spot in Armagh) with the girls and took lots of pictures for a new post. I’m getting used to asking owners and managers for permission to ask photos but I still feel a little conscious of locals looking at me like I’m a mad woman – not too many bloggers in Armagh! After more catch ups with both parents I was back in Belfast yesterday evening shattered and ready for a night by the fire watching Graham Norton – bliss.

 

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Sunday was a quiet day which began with a lie in and homemade pancakes. Little else happened other than a long overdue excavation of my car and some grocery shopping followed by some crappy chess playing by the fire – aye I know, we are middle-class OAP’s. The truth is Andrew bought me a set for my birthday when we were in Cuba where he taught me to play and we’ve not used it at all. I am still shite but at least I don’t have to look at the set with a guilty conscious for a while!

 

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After a weekend spent in the fresh air and by the fire, I am starting the week with a clear head and I am definitely not sweating the small stuff. Here’s a few of them…

 

Always Forgetting To Put The Memory Card Back In the Flippin’ Camera

This happened for the millionth time over the weekend when I was down in Armagh. I arrived at The Argory beaming at all the frost and mist rising and when I put my eye up to take a picture, the camera reminded me yet again that I forgot the feckin’ memory card. I had to make do with my iPhone which didn’t do too badly but for a wee second I was hard on myself. Need to stop doing that. Or to just start remembering the memory card.

 

Not Having Snapchat

I can barely manage Instagram and Facebook so adding another social media app would probably finish me. I also find it seriously irritating when people listen to their Snapchat stories so all I can hear is some drunken mess talking about how they stole a traffic cone on their way home from a night on the rip. I think it would just push me over the edge so I’m one of those oldies that doesn’t have that flower crown filter in every second photo.

 

Keeping Candles For Guests

Screw the guests, I’m choosing to bring every candle in to my bathroom when I’m having a bath so it’s lit up like Croke Park. I never buy Yankee candles because it feels like I’m burning money every time I light the wick so I now buy candles so I can actually enjoy them. There is a new Scandinavian shop that’s just opened in Belfast called Sostrene Grene that I am completely in love with and they sell bucket loads of candles for tuppence. Win!

 

Abusing My Amazon Basket

Sundays are the worst for browsing through Amazon or any other website making impulsive choices and then backing out before I hit the big ‘Pay Now’ button. I keep deleting and adding items before the pressure all gets a little too much and I close the laptop down. Yesterday I actually committed myself to buying a knitting kit and a photo album – massive purchases that require a lot of thought but I managed it. Yay me.

 

Not Having A Dog

Now, most people who know me know how much I yearn for a dog in my life but after having Bella for a few hours on Saturday, I can say that I might be OK without one for another while. Or at least one that doesn’t shed a lorry load of hair in one shake. I can do without looking like Chewbacca after a few minutes of cuddles, thanks.

 

I hope you have a super week and let’s hope for another few crisp, cold days like this one…

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Live The Little Things

Live The Little Things

Oh Friday, thank goodness you’re here because I have been dragging my tired ass from one day in to the next. My days have been rolling in to one as I hide in my cosy house after work (with the odd jaunt to the gym for a half hour of pure pain) and my wee hooves have been practically sighing with relief as I shuffle in to my slippers as soon as I’m through the door.

 

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I almost feel embarrassed about the sheer joy I have been feeling at doing feck all recently but this is the only time of year when it’s completely OK to hibernate and watch all 6 seasons of Downton Abbey with a cup of tea permanently balancing on my ever-growing pouch. We need these little things to keep us going in the darker evenings because by spending so much time indoors, we can easily succumb to darker thoughts. Silly worries about whether we should be doing more after an exhausting day at work (and maybe eating fewer blocks of chocolate) can permeate and fester. Things that we wouldn’t give a second thought to during the warmer months can suddenly become more considered and worth our time.

 

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I try to be aware of this feeling that can creep in during winter. Instead of allowing myself to feel guilty about enjoying the simpler way of living, I relish in it because I know when the longer days arrive I’ll be drawn to the outside again. I might not have as many pretty photos but I have lots of time to write, read and cook – things I completely neglect when the sun comes out. Most of all though, I use this time to appreciate the little things that happen to me throughout the day that can make me just as happy as the big moments in life.

 

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During the next month or two when you may feel a little restless or stressed, try to be mindful of the small things that have maybe made your day a little better. Put on some music while you’re cooking dinner and have a wee party in the kitchen. Listen to the fire crackle as you read your favourite mag. Buy yourself a bright bunch of flowers. Call your best mate for a chat. All these little wins add up to a pretty happy winter.

 

And here are my little wins for this week…

  1. Listening to Jurassic 5 in a bath full of bubbles – Andrew definitely caught me trying to rap along
  2. Laughing out loud in my car on the drive to work in the morning – I was listening to the radio, I’m not completely demented
  3. Having just enough milk for the last cup of tea of the day – YESSSSS
  4. Getting to the gym and remembering everything – I usually forget a sports bra or socks in my morning stupor
  5. Waking up and realising I still have over an hour left in bed – definitely the cosiest feeling in the world
  6. My herbs still clinging to life despite living on an hour of daylight every day – you go basil!
  7. Ordering a knitting kit on Amazon – quiet time means time to get creative (and knit a scarf as we’re coming in to Spring)
  8. Made my own fishcakes which were absolutely delightful – hello potential blog post
  9. Reading a magazine in bed at 10pm – #grannylyfe
  10. Funny emails from my mates to keep me going in work – they’re the best!

 

Have a cracking weekend folks and whatever you’re up to, don’t feel a shred of guilt as long as you’re happy 🙂

 

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What Not To Worry About #10

What Not To Worry About #10

Happy Monday folks!

 

I hope you had a slow weekend filled with lots of tea and a fair bit of cosying underneath plenty of blankets. It was a wet one in these parts but we made the most of it with an impromptu road trip up the Glens of Antrim that ended with a night of games with friends in Portrush. It’s the unexpected nights that can be some of the best especially in the middle of winter and we fell in to bed at 1am wrecked and happy.

 

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Sunday was a much slower affair and which was mostly spent mooching about the house in slippers covered in flour. I went full Mary Berry and baked scones, wheaten bread AND protein balls. AND made a batch of soup. AND made some jambalaya. Serious housewife skillz. We then had some friends round to try and offload as many baked good as possible before I hopped in the bath to wind down an already pretty peachy Sunday.

 

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I’ve picked up the ‘What Not To Worry About’ series for 2017 and have chosen a few things I am choosing to let go of this week. Here goes…

 

Buying the most beautiful diary for 2017 and then only using it until February

 

Oh how I love to flip through the pages of beautiful diaries in Paperchase. I stand in the aisle for an age, convincing myself that spending a small fortune on blank pages will mean a future so organised and seamless that I will be sure to have my shit together by the end of the year. I start off with great intentions; I write weekly goal lists, monitor my daily intake of Haribo and remind myself of the things I was supposed to do yesterday. The thing is, I forget about the bloody thing after a month and it lies in my beside table drawer until the end of the year when I clearly do not have my shit together. Some people are fabulous planners and there’s people like me who try to be fabulous planners but will forever rely on scribbles on hands or on the memories of others. I try not to feel bad about it and instead I carry around a notebook that I can scrawl on instead of guiltily throwing away a beautiful diary that can’t even be re-used the next year.

 

Attempting to de-clutter for the New Year but spend hours cross-legged reminiscing over old photo albums and laughing at your terrible fashion choices

 

It is a known fact that when you begin to clear out old paperwork, unused body products you got for Christmas 5 years ago or trying (and failing) to create a capsule wardrobe for the thousandth time, you are instantly drawn to old photo albums that you “completely forgot about” since the last annual clear out. You will call out to everyone in your house to come and see how ridiculous you looked in your Tammy Girl halter top that you wore to your first disco and which you expertly coordinated with your Collection 2000 lilac eye shadow. You will take lots of photos of your phone to send to your mates or for a #tbt Insta upload. After a few hours of this you will realise that you have ran out of time to throw anything away and everything will be shoved back to their original pile until next year’s attempt.

 

REALISING PEOPLE BORN IN 2000 CAN DRIVE THIS YEAR!!!!

 

Eh, what? Sure the Millennium was only the other year was it not?!! I remember it well of course since it was the year I played one of the lead roles in my P7 school play that was to be my farewell performance. I played the Narrator and I wore a silver top hat with matching waistcoat along with crimped hair (obvs) and comb-through hair glitter. Needless to say it was a great year for the arts but when I think of anyone born in 2000 I imagine that they’re still bottle-fed. I am coming to terms with being reminded that I am getting older along with everyone else and that I am doomed to forever look on in horror at the young things wearing denim hotpants. Kids these days.

 

Crying at children’s movies

 

Have you seen the Irish animated movie ‘Song of the Sea’? If not then you better get on it. I watched it when I was off sick late last year and I sat on the edge of the sofa with my eyes brimming with tears throughout. The film was beautifully hand drawn with the sweetest storyline and even sweeter music (the title track is sang by my girl crush Lisa Hannigan) that pulled at my Celtic heartstrings. Of course with the goddess Macha being an important character in the film and me being from Armagh (which  in Gaelic means “Macha’s Heights”), I was destined to fall in love. Please watch it when you have a moment to weep at something truly exquisite.

 

Shaving Legs

A highly unnecessary task in winter if you ask me. Now there may be some gentlemen reading who are not fond of the fuzzy leg but let me tell you when it comes to the depths of January and limbs are covered pretty much 24 hours a day then there is no point in subjecting ourselves to this godawful borefest. Don’t get me wrong, I do shave them… sometimes…like every other week or something so I’m not a complete ape underneath these skinny jeans but really we should enjoy the hairy moments while we can.

 

And that’s the line-up of useless things to give a crap about. I hope you are able to take this strategy through the week and let go of the unnecessary worries that might be weighing you down – a lighter mind is a lot easier to carry around!

 

Have a great one!

 

xx

My Top 5 Travel Experiences

My Top 5 Travel Experiences

Since I was a small I have always had a deep desire to travel to new and faraway places. I used to trace my fingers across the seas and oceans of my Geosafari globe that had long lost it’s batteries and imagined all the places out there that I could one day explore. I especially remember a family holiday to Kerry which, although not exactly a faraway place, completely blew my 10 year old mind. We got out of the car during our tour of the Ring of Kerry and as I looked across the valley, I was reduced to tears. An odd thing to do as a child but it was just that the view was so incredibly beautiful and all of it was right in front of me.

 

The German have a word for this feeling I have had since then. “Fernweh” doesn’t have an official English equivalent but when broken down can be literally translated as “farsickness” or essentially as having an ache for a distant or unknown land. For years I identified wholly with this foreign word because it felt wholly natural to me. I felt restless for a place I had never been which only intensified the more I travelled.

 

I blame the genes really. My mum’s family are all travellers; my great-aunt lived in Kenya during the 50’s and 60’s and met her future husband there, my uncle left Ireland in his twenties and eventually settled in Australia , my aunt has lived in France and Bahrain but it’s my Granny Una who inspired my love of travel. She worked as a WREN in the Mediterranean around the time of WWII but, as was commonplace back then, her travels were cut short as marriage and motherhood took her in a different direction. She has travelled a great deal for a woman of her age (she is still hopeful of travelling to Australia again to see my uncle despite turning 90 this coming April) but I know she would have liked to have travelled more. I make sure to take her photos after any trip because I know it makes her so happy to know her grandchildren are seeing the world.

 

After 6 years of living abroad I finally returned to the motherland in 2014 with tentative feet. It’s been an adjustment but one I have found easier than I had anticipated which slightly unnerved me at fist. What I discovered was that although there are extraordinary places in this world, too many to see in one lifetime, there are some pretty special places that are not too faraway from home too. Just like my ten year old self I found that there are scenes that can move me in Ireland just as much as a tropical reef or an ancient ruin.

 

There have been some spectacular experiences over the years but I’ve managed to whittle them down to 5 in the hope I can inspire a few of you to step out and discover a place you’ve never known and feel a wee bit of this “fernweh”.

 

MADAGASCAR

I battled for a long time with how to describe this country and I still can’t find the words. As a 21 year old many would think I might have been too young to fully appreciate a land that holds so much magic because a place that looks and feels so different to anywhere else in the world is magical. But I did fully appreciate this amazing place and the opportunity to be a part of an expedition there because I was in complete awe the entire time. The animals I got to see, the people I got to meet and the jaw dropping views I witnessed will stay with me forever.

 

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I volunteered as a Research Assistnat in the north-western part of the country where the dry forests are located for a few weeks one summer. The aim was to measure biodiversity which involved recording sightings of birds, reptiles and mammals. I can still remember walking through the forest and knowing that most of the animals I was seeing couldn’t be found anywhere else in the world. Out of all the countries I have been to, this is the one place I would return to first. I hope I do one day.

 

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Highlights

  • Watching sifaka lemurs jump between trees with their long limbs swaying as they held their babies close.
  • Holding chameleons and leaf tailed geckos as they attempted to camouflage themselves against our skin.
  • Walking through the forest at night with our head torches only to see a mass of yellow eyes staring back at us through the darkness.
  • Watching the sunset at Boabab Avenue with a cold beer and watching local kids play totally oblivious to the spectacle before them.
  • Lying on our backs to see the whole of the milky way above us as well as countless shooting stars.

 

CUBA

I will always treasure the memories from our trip to Cuba in 2015 because it was the first holiday Andrew and I took together. It was an adventure for both us because we had such little Spanish and the island wasn’t exactly an easy place to explore. However it exceeded every expectation we had not just because of it’s history but because the landscape was breathtaking at every corner and the people were some of the happiest I have ever met.

 

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I have written about our travels in previous posts, one of which you can find here but in short our travels took us from Havana through Vinales, Trinidad, Santa Clara and Remedios. What struck me most was the colours of the country and when I think back it’s the first thing that I remember. The red earth, the lush green fields, the bright buildings. A colourful country with a colourful past.

 

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Highlights

  • Exploring the tobacco fields of Vinales on horseback before watching cigars being handrolled by local farmers.
  • Climbing the cobbled hills of Trinidad to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old Town and hiding under the rafters to hide from a tropical rainstorm.
  • Visiting Santa Clara, the site of the last battle of the Cuban Revolution, and learning just how incredible the achievements were of Fidel, Che and all of the rebels who helped change the course of their country’s history.
  • Taking a Chevy from Remedios to an empty white beach and lying in crystal clear waters.
  • Strolling the streets of Havana and drinking our body weights in rum.

 

AUSTRALIA

I wouldn’t necessarily call Australia a travel experience because I lived there for a couple of years but the moments I had there were so incredible they had to be included here. I landed in Perth in November 2011 with my two best friends, no money (spent it all in SE Asis on the way there), no job and no clue what I was doing. I should have been scared but I wasn’t because I had never felt so carefree before and my belly hurt every day from laughing so much that I couldn’t have cared if I tried.

 

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After travelling around the southwest and living on the east coast for a while, I finally found myself back on the west coast living in paradise. I’ve written a post before about what living in Australia taught me because being surrounded by the ocean and ending my days with a cold beer and salty hair changed me forever. I still hang on to the lessons I learned while living there because it’s easy to get sucked in to the grind over here and forget the importance of putting our own happiness first. I might not be throwing back the beers or swimming in the ocean half as much but I appreciate the things I have around me and the little of bit sunshine when we do get it!

 

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Highlights

  • Swimming with whalesharks – three times! – with one occasion resulting in an impromptu swim with a humpback and her calf. AMAZING.
  • Taking the boats out with friends and exploring islands, swimming and watching manta rays courting.
  • Road trip through Queensland and Northern Territory and seeing a rainbow over Uluru.
  • Living in hostels with my best mates.
  • Living with my family in NSW and being taken to the Blue Mountains.
  • Taking a road trip with my Mum down the NSW coast.

 

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa is a land of economic and environmental extremes. Witnessing such an unnecessary wealth divide in a country that is supposed to have progressed was incredibly frustrating but what I cannot deny is how welcoming the people are and how beautiful the country is.

 

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The South Africans are very proud of their country and the enthusiasm for the land is totally infectious. I completely fell in love with the savannah and was lucky enough to come close to animals I had only ever seen on TV or through glass. I had such respect for every creature I saw because they were exactly where they should be and reminded me that the world continues on the way it is supposed to despite humans trying to tear it apart.

 

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Highlights

  • Walking with a guide in the open savannah and on returning back to our hotel, noticing fresh leopard prints that were not there before (meaning there had been a leopard metres from where we were without us noticing).
  • Visting the vineyards of Stellanbosch.
  • Coming back from dinner on our safari trip and finding a warthog at the door.
  • Ending up in a shanty town pub on New Years Eve.
  • Seeing penguins on Boulders Beach.
  • Seeing Cape Town from Table Mountain.

 

SOUTH EAST ASIA

The trip where I laughed from start to finish. After graduating from university, my two friends and I decided to spend nearly two months in SE Asia before landing in Australia for a year. We landed in Bangkok a little innocent and unsure of where we were going but it didn’t matter because we knew it would all work out. And it did! We laughed our way through Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia before landing in Singapore without so much as 50 quid to take us to Australia.

 

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I would urge anyone in their twenties to backpack with their friends for even a few months because there is a small window in life where there is absolutely nothing to worry about other than where you’re going to go to next. It’s a huge luxury to have and one we were well aware of as we clung on to every ounce of joy. We may not have seen as much as we would have liked but we were young and a little bit reckless. I would relive it all in an instant if I could.

 

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Highlights

  • Sitting on the front of an empty ferry boat as we entered the Pulau Langkawi islands in Malaysia at sunset.
  • Walking through the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
  • Getting matching tattoos in Ko Phi Phi.
  • Climbing the trek to see the Erawan Waterfalls.
  • Eating the most delicious street food in Penang.
  • Being fined £250 for out staying our Thai visa and having no clue we did it (and later being told we could have ended in prison – had to laugh or we would have cried).

 

Being able to travel is a privilege I never plan on taking for granted because the world is too beautiful to experience from one perspective. I want to see it from every possible angle, drinking in cultures and expanding my mind so I can absorb all opinions and views. Life is a continuous learning curve that cannot be traversed from an armchair. We must get out there to really live.

 

Now excuse me while I go plan another adventure.

St. George’s Market Salmon & Veggies

St. George’s Market Salmon & Veggies

I’ve made no secret of my love of St. George’s Market and after the loveliest trip on Saturday, I won’t be climbing down off my soapbox anytime soon. It’s the one place that is sure to pick me up on these ceaseless grey winter weekends when straying too far from the house is out of the question.

 

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I dragged Andrew for a mooch around the stalls after lunch when I knew the crowds would have quietened down and he wouldn’t have to stress about pushing past a load of tourists hovering over loaves of soda bread. As I drooled past the display of cheese and chutneys, I made a bee line for the vegetable stands (I have eaten a lifetime of smoked cheddar over the holidays) where I knew I would be in safer hands.

 

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I love buying my vegetables from the markets when I’m able to. Getting to meet the seller and have a conversation with them is such a rarity these days and I take real pleasure in getting to meet local business people. I picked up sweet potato, a massive bunch of fresh dill, onion, a load of asparagus and when I didn’t have enough change to cover it all, I was shooed away with a flick of a hand. That’s Belfast all over.

 

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After I picked up my veggies I splurged on some salmon and had to restrain myself from buying a kilo of mussels and scallops. Fresh seafood is such a luxury for me and this year I am trying to introduce a little more in to my weekly cooking to try and inspire some new techniques. I can rely on the same dishes to carry me through sometimes (oh hey cottage pie) so a little shake up can only be a good thing.

 

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Last night I unveiled the beauty and roasted the fish in foil slathered with a delicious marinade. It was extremely quick and easy that I’m even thinking of going completely wild and making fish cakes from scratch later in the week. With fresh breadcrumbs! Too much?

 

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I’ve included the ridiculously simple recipe below in case you feel like trying something other than a stew/casserole/pie – unless you’re a much more accomplished chef than me and a recipe like this is laughable! Above all else if it encourages you to take a trip to your local markets or even just to the fishmongers down the road to have a chinwag about anything other than Brexit (fishmongers are quite passionate about EU quotas I feel so keep it light) then this would make me silly happy.

 

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Happy Tuesday y’all!


Roasted Fresh Salmon & Veggies

Feeds 2

Ingredients

  • 600g fresh salmon fillet
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 150ml melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • Cherry tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 10 asparagus stalks

Method

  1. Cut the sweet potato in to chunks roughly an inch thick and drizzle with olive oil in a baking tray before sprinkling with cinnamon.
  2. Place in an oven heated to 200 C and leave for 40 minutes, shaking after 20 minutes.
  3. Mix the butter, sugar, lemon juice, dried herbs and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Lay the salmon in foil in a baking tray and pour the mixture over the salmon.
  5. Wrap the salmon up and place the cherry tomatoes beside the salmon in the tray. Drizzle with the tomatoes with oil and season with a little salt. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  6. About 5 minutes before everything is ready boil the asparagus until just firm.
  7. Stuff your face.

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Things To Be Proud Of

Things To Be Proud Of

“That’s it for another year” is a phrase that is spoken by every person on this island once the Christmas festivities come to an end. I said it myself today as I slowly packed away our tree and decorations and sadly realised I won’t be seeing tinsel for at least 11 months – we need to find more opportunities for tinsel! It can also feel a little rushed when we’re frantically buzzing around trying to see all the relatives and friends we can so that when the moment does arrive where we can finally put our feet up and appreciate the music, decorations and festive tipples, it flashes by us and we’re left wondering where the days have gone.

 

I’m back to work tomorrow and although I have thoroughly thrown myself in to life as a lady of leisure (I made soup AND brownies today!), I’m a creature of habit and miss the routine of a working week albeit not really the working bit. However, what the last few days of doing pretty much nothing has enabled me to do is to reflect on the year that has passed me. A New Year brings half-assed resolutions which some of us (me) will never keep and make us (me) feel like failures by February. While it is a healthy thing to look ahead and give ourselves goals which will give us the motivation to get through the rest of winter, I like to take a moment to look at the things I’ve already achieved before I’ve decided it’s not enough.

 

This year saw a fair bit of change for me. Andrew and I moved in to our first home together which I love and after years of living abroad, I finally feel settled and happy in Ireland. I also got a new job working for a big finance institution which again was so far removed from what I was used to but an opportunity I felt I couldn’t pass up. In between these changes, I’ve also had up’s and down’s – skiing the French Alps, a hospital admission, friends getting engaged, family loss, seeing Copenhagen with my little sister. There have been days when I have felt lost and alone and there have been days when I have felt so much joy I could burst. The dark days can feel unbearable but it’s having the ability to push through them in the knowledge that it’s all temporary. As the wondrous Leonard Cohen wrote,

 

“There is a crack in everything, 

That’s how the light gets in”

Yes, 2016 was a year of changes and no doubt 2017 will have a few more in store for me but I want to take a second to give myself a pat on the back for a few things. Things that have scared me but instead of shying away from them, I have relished in the challenge. Here are a few of my own for this year…

The Blog

An obvious one! But the one that stands out from everything. Writing a few posts a month has taken a lot of dedication but above all bravery because there is no scarier thing than sharing your words with others. It wasn’t so much the judgement of strangers I was most afraid of but those of the people who knew me which is why it took me so long to share the blog on Facebook. How wrong I was because when I did decide to share the blog with friends and family, I got the most amazing feedback! What I thought was just rambling nonsense was in fact an important message for some people and while I still don’t see myself as a writer by any means, I do have so much more confidence in what I’m trying to say. It has also led me to other bloggers from NI who I greatly admire and have been able to take so much inspiration from. I will be blogging away in 2017 but 2016 will be the year I laid my heart bare and I will always be hugely proud of that.

 

New Industry

I have a degree in Ecological Science so a career in a financial institution is not exactly where I saw myself going so when I interviewed for the job and walked through the sleek offices and past the people in suits, I felt a little like a sell out to say the least. However, in this part of the world there are few places where you can climb the career ladder while learning a vast set of skills so I felt it was an important move. Nearly 6 months later I still feel like I’m getting to grips with the corporate scene but massively grateful for the benefits it’s given me. I’m now volunteering weekly at a local school, taking part in mindfulness classes on lunches and yoga classes after work – I have the whole work life balance down! It wasn’t all easy for me but I’m proud I took the leap of faith because it’s introduced me to a pretty great career.

 

Health

Getting older with CF is a little scary to say the least so fitness is not an important but a necessary part of my life. I was hospitalised in June for the first time in three and a half years and although that was a great achievement to have been out of hospital for so long, I found it very difficult to be away from Andrew. I promised myself that I would concentrate more on health and less on trying to pretend that I’m just like everyone else because as frustrating as it can be, I’m not. Luckily my good buddy Gareth opened a gym in Belfast a few months ago and he took me under his pumped up wing and flung me in to PT sessions. I am by no means a natural gym-goer so it took me a few weeks to get used to the shame of not being able to lift the teeniest of weights but after a while I started to see some changes. Not just in my muscles (hello back muscle I never knew existed!!) but also in my lung functions which stayed in the high 70’s most of the year – woop woop! Just call me Arnie guys.

 

Skiing

We went skiing in January which was my second time on the slopes (the first being 12 years ago!) so needless to say I was bricking it when I put on the skis. I hadn’t realised what I was doing until we hopped off the gondola and were clipping our boots in place while staring down the most beautiful mountain I’d ever been on. What the feck was I doing?! I should’ve booked lessons!! Off I went with my knees quaking and pretending to Andrew that I was grand and telling him to go on ahead when in actual fact I was wondering how to get back on the gondola again. I carried on though and after a few hairy moments I remembered how much fun it was and how amazing it felt to glide through scenes that were straight from a post card. On the fourth day I even braved a black slope with Andrew and his friend Simon which was basically a glass bottle. I was terrified and amazed I managed it but I felt like a champion so for that I am proud.

 

Creativity

Now I know the blog sort of falls under creativity but writing aside, I’ve also been taking the last year to flex my creativity muscles which, like my back muscles, I didn’t really know existed! I’ve always been interested in making homemade products and my Pinterest is clogged with ideas so eventually I pushed myself in to making a few candles. Once I realised how easy it all was I branched out in to soap, lipbalm, exfoliants, body butter and next thing I know I’m drowning in essential oils! I decided to hand out a few in Christmas hampers this year and they went down a treat so I now know what everyone will be getting for birthdays this year!

 

So those are a few of the things that have made me chuffed to be me this year. I will be making a few intentions for the year ahead but looking back on the past year has allowed me to appreciate the little things I have achieved and knowing what I can do differently.

 

Please let me know what you’re proud of doing in 2016 and the accomplishments (little or small!) you’ll be taking in to the New Year! Let’s bring as much positivity in to 2017 as we can!