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10 Festive Activities To Do This Christmas (or not do)

10 Festive Activities To Do This Christmas (or not do)

Happy Monday friends! Has your week started off the way you had hoped? Tired already? ‘Tis the season for constant tail-chasing after all which can often lead to us forgetting to just be and enjoy everything wonderful the festive seasons brings along with it. There is a lot of pressure, especially on parents I think, to have the most-absolutely-amazingly-fun-Christmas-ever turning moments that are supposed to be fun and light-hearted in to this mess of forced memories we are intent on making for ourselves.

How about instead of rushing around trying to tick off a crazy festive bucket list, we make time for the wee moments and not berate ourselves for missing out something that would have stressed us out? Don’t feel guilty if you don’t make it to the big Christmas light switch-on (crowds of people gathered in the freezing cold ain’t for everyone) or feel like standing in queue for another freakin’ grotto (for a photo that will probably scar your child). How about doing something that won’t stress you out or your family?

I’ve created a list of things I know will personally bring me a wee bit of happiness in between all the shopping and innumerable social gatherings (I am even socialising midweek now!). Feel free to take a few ideas for yourself but remember, don’t put the pressure on to do it all. Think about why you’re doing it and if you’re not doing it for the pure joy of it then strike it off the list.

Go Ice Skating

It’s not for everyone but I love the adrenaline of trying to stay vertical while giving my thighs the biggest workout they’ve seen all year. It’s fun (to me anyway) and is a real winter novelty that I have no shame in indulging in. For those local to Belfast there is always the trusty Dundonald rink that I’ve been going to since I was a youngster but there’s also a rink opening for a few days over the winter break at the SSE Arena OR if you want to go really crazy, grab some tickets for the Winter Wonderland at the Clandeboyne Estate which would be a real festive treat.

Christmas Crafting

For me, making a homemade wreath or crafting presents to hand out to my loved ones is something that can bring the most happiness at this time of year than anything else. It’s a quiet time for just me amongst all the noise which is imperative for me to keep my sanity (while making a complete mess).

Sing Carols

I am no singer and not a church-goer and yet there is something hauntingly beautiful about attending a carolling service. If you’re not part of a church like me then try something different like attending a night at the orchestra at the Ulster Hall? My favourite is ‘Fall On Your Knees’ all because of Home Alone, of course.

Local Christmas Markets

The Belfast markets can be complete madness and can actually be more stressful than fun. However smaller local markets can be just as enjoyable and filled with tasty treats that you don’t have to queue an hour for. Have a wee nosy at the Discover NI website to see when your local market is next on.

See a Pantomime/Play/Musical

Local theatres are packed with festive productions which we should make the most of getting off our couches to see. I have the best memories of sitting on the floor watching a pantomime at my local leisure centre as a kid (while losing all feeling in my ass). I’m trying to find children to borrow so I can see this musical otherwise I’ll be the eccentric lady on her own who brought her own snacks!

Watch old Christmas movies

You can do this at home of course with the fire lit and the family cocooned in a mass of duvets but some cinemas play the classics which can be a fun way to see the old favourites. I love watching It’s A Wonderful Life in the Queen’s Film Theatre each year. The theatre is a Belfast institution and has these old vintage cinema seats that feel about a hundred years old (probably because they are). They also cater for people with disabilities (dementia, autism) so everyone can delve in to a bit of nostalgia on the screen.

Celebrate the Solstice

Step back in time and celebrate the arrival of the Winter Solstice at the Navan Fort centre in Armagh. My hometown is steeped in ancient Celtic history and the Navan Fort are mirroring the customs of our ancestors through a morning of traditional celebrations followed by a lantern-lit walk up the fort were re-enactors will welcome the breaking of the dawn. The whole event is free unless you want to nibble on a bit of breakfast afterwards which you can enjoy for 4 quid – bargain!

Make homemade mulled wine

Or cider! Here’s an easy recipe for mulled wine that will scent your house like a friggin’ Christmas perfumery. Make a batch and keep some for the visitors that stream through the house. Not too much though or they’ll never leave.

Look out for others

Without sounding like a TV ad, this time of year can be tougher on those who live alongside us, especially the elderly who can be a tad more vulnerable in the colder months. We’re lucky to have Maureen as our neighbour and while she’s fully capable of looking after herself (she looked at me like I was mad when I asked if I could help her with the 10kg box of washing powder she was lugging in to her house the other day), it’s still good to check in once in a while. I would hate to think of my Granny on her own with no one looking out for her so it’s nice to treat those around us with a little more care.

Forage for decorations

We can all go a little crazy with the decorations this time of year which is the last thing our wallets need. To try and save pennies I’ve been bringing a few things back from my winter walks. A wee bit of holly, some ivy or even pine cones to roast in the oven (an idea I stole from my friend Caoimhe, you can find a way to do it here). I’ve been decorating the fireplace, the dining table and coffee table with these foraged finds which feels a bit more special than wasting money on another garland from a chain store.

 

Oh writing this list got me a little bit excited! What about you? What festive activities are you hoping to do this year??

 

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?

Have you ever taken the Myers-Brigg’s type indicator test? It’s basically a personality test that reveals differing psychological preferences in how we perceive the world and make decisions and can be scarily accurate! It’s also become hugely popular as a management tool within the workplace as it creates awareness of differing personal and professional traits and encourages a greater level of understanding amongst teams. I was offered the chance to attend a workshop last week where we discovered what “type” we were and how our type should be treated by others. It also taught us how to identify other personality types and how best to manage them which in an close work environment can be testing even for the best of us!

It was an intense day full of psycho-analysis but by the end of the workshop I discovered I was type “ESFP” which can be broken down as:

E = Extraversion (how I focus my attention and get my energy)

S = Sensing (How I perceive or take in information)

F = Feeling (How I prefer to make decisions)

P = Perception (How I orientate myself to the external world)

This will all sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo if you haven’t taken the test before but I found it unbelievable how accurate the “type” I was given fitted me and made me realise that I’m not a scatter brain because I don’t care, it’s my type! I also found that ESFP’s are true helpers and eternal people pleasers which wasn’t a huge surprise (my name is Greek for “helper of mankind” for frig sake) and that they love to lift others’ spirits with their contagious good humour and their irrepressible joy of living (you’re welcome!). The not so great side of an ESFP is that we can be a little too sensitive to criticism and avoid conflict at all costs which can be tough trait to have at home and at work for both us and everyone around us. 

Aside from finding out that I am a needy wuss, another thing I found super interesting was how my own definition of an extrovert and introvert was all wrong. I had long assumed that extroverts are the super confident socialites who have no problem with talking in a crowd and that introverts were the typical shy mousey-types that cower when spoken to. All wrong! Being an extrovert or an introvert is actually the way in which we gain our energy and isn’t at all about confidence. 

Extroverts gain energy from being around other people and might find their energy levels are zapped when they spend too much time alone. I identified hugely with this because while I do look forward to a quiet evening at home now and again, I notice that I become a bit down when I do this too much. This is especially wearying during the winter when we all tend to retreat inside and social gatherings can become less frequent (Christmas craziness aside).

Introverts on the other hand gain energy from being alone and tend to feel drained after spending a long time in a large crowd. Introverts are stimulated much more easily than extroverts so being amongst a big group of people might feel a little overwhelming. This doesn’t mean they’re shy or that they avoid social situations, it just means that being alone with their thoughts can be as restorative to them as sleeping and are a necessity for them to recharge their batteries.

Of course there are the ambiverts amongst us who feel that they fall in the middle. In fact, most of us actually are ambiverts because if we fell at at the extreme end of extraversion or introversion we might be a little wacky! Either way we will still be a little more on one side than the other and so should address this side of our personality when we are feeling low and in need of a recharge. We should prioritise those moments we know will lift us out of the funk we are in, especially at this time of year when the dark evenings can drag us down a little. Here are a few tips, whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, on how to recharge those batteries this winter.


5 Ways To Gain Energy This Winter

Extroverts

  1. Become a hostess/host once a week and invite a different group of friends over for dinner. I love having people in my house for food and I’ve decided to try and host friends once a week for a big meal and lots of conversation which I know will lift me up, especially in the middle of the week when I’m feeling meh.
  2. Join a club whether it’s a book club, wine club or friggin’ Stranger Things club. I joined my office book club as a way to get me reading more but it’s also something I look forward to because it helps me break up my week with interesting conversation. Do a little digging and get yourself out there (I’m going to Mel Wiggin’s Assembly Gatherings this winter because being around creative people is a sure fire way to inspire the bejaysus out of me).
  3. Stop eating lunch at your desk! I can do this out of bad habit but when I make a conscious effort to eat step away from the computer and eat with friends I have so much more energy in the afternoon.
  4. Get your partner and friends involved in decorating the house and wrapping presents this festive season. Blast the Christmas music, get the mulled wine on and the fire lit to fill your house full of festive cheer.
  5. Volunteer for a worthy cause whether it be at your local homeless centre or charity shop. Whatever it is, ensure you are engaging with people that you know you can help and who might help you too.

Introverts

  1. Prioritise social events with people who make you feel comfortable. You know those mates you’ve known since you were a cub and can still make you laugh until your sides hurt? Make plenty of time for them this winter and decline invites to events that fill your tummy with dread.
  2. Go for a solo walk on your lunch break. Fill your lungs with fresh air and clear your mind of all the crap you’ve just had to listen to all morning. You will feel so much better.
  3. Introduce a social media ban after a certain time in the evening and stick to it. Your mind can’t focus when you have too much stimulation so try and hide your phone in the next room when you’re trying to dive in to that good book you’re reading.
  4. Block book at least one evening a week to do nothing over the festive period. This time of year can become a bit manic so be kind to yourself and give yourself the time you need to unwind.
  5. Make Christmas shopping fun by treating yourself to a little afternoon on your own. Get your list written down so you don’t go a bit mad in the shops, treat yourself to a hot chocolate (or something stronger) on your breaks and finish the day with a wee pamper (I’ve been dying to try the Jo Malone counter in House of Fraser for ages!)

 

I hope you find these tips helpful this winter but in the meantime, take the quiz and let me know what personality type you get – I’m fascinated to know who everyone is now!

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8 Books I’m Reading This Autumn & Winter

8 Books I’m Reading This Autumn & Winter

I have known some amazing people in my life; people who have broadened my mind and taught me life lessons that no classroom ever could. There was once the young heroine who travelled between parallel worlds, using a knife to cut through the curtain that separated them. And the girl who shared the power of language with adults at a time when the world was falling apart.  Oh! And the boy with autism who solved a mystery about a murdered dog!

And while admittedly none of these people were actually real, they existed so vividly in my mind that they became familiar, like someone I had known forever. It never ceases to amaze me how I can fall in love with/detest/fear/pity characters that are purely fictional and yet, while I am reading the pages their world is contained in, I am so engrossed that they become a part of my own little world.

Yes, this is the magic of a good book. It pulls at your heart, making you feel a longing that you didn’t know existed. A good book will leave you in mourning for weeks.

Naturally, there are a lot of blog posts around this time of year full of book recommendation as we prepare for the season of hibernation. Books provide an escape, an adventure that we are denied during the darker months when things are slower and a little safer. There are thousands of stories that we can read that will scoop us up from our couch and transport us somewhere entirely new and exciting but for logistical reasons I am choosing eight for the autumn and winter that should just about see me (and hopefully you) through to spring.

My taste in books doesn’t discriminate; you’ll find a mix of genres here so I am confident that you will find one that you can add to your list. And, as always, I am open to lots of suggestions so please share with me the books you are choosing for your dormant hours.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One – Philip Pullman

If you haven’t read Philip Pullman’s epic ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy then you have been missing something truly magical from your life! Although the series was marketed to young adults, the themes of the book speak to all ages with elements of fantasy, philosophy and theology all thrown in. It’s been 17 years since the release of the last book in the series, a book which made me cry at the age of 20 and I, along with the an army of fans, have been waiting a long time to meet Lyra again. The new trilogy is an “equel” as it is both a prequel and a sequel all wrapped in to one with the first book released today. I’ll be waiting by the door like a giddy child until it arrives in my hands!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

This is a non-fiction book, not my usual cup of tea but the story was so tragically fascinating that I couldn’t put it down. The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line, known as HeLa, that came from Lacks’ cervical cancer cells in 1951. It sounds heavy because it is, not just because it involves some medical jargon that you might need to read slowly but also because it addresses the painful history of racial politics within medicine. Despite this, I still think it’s an important read because the author doesn’t just throw out scientific facts but bravely tells the story of a woman who, unbeknownst to her family, changed the course of medicine and scientific research. A powerful read but one that might take a while to get through.

All The Light We Cannot See – Antony Doerr

I have just started this and have already fallen in love. It tells the story of Marie-Laure, a blind girl who along with her father has taken refuge in a coastal city while the Nazis invade Paris. Her story collides with Werner, a German orphan who is fighting for Hitler Youth and who are about to face attack from the American bombers. I had read about this book after it won the Pulitzer prize back in 2015 and suggested it for my book club in work so I have high hopes that there will be positive reviews all round at the next meeting!

The Happiness Trap – Russ Harris

I’m going to sound extremely American here but…. My psychologist recommended me this book! I started seeing her about a year 6-8 months ago because it’s something the Cystic Fibrosis team encourage us to do since it can obviously be a bit stressful living with this nasty illness. The thing is, I hardly ever discuss CF and we mainly chat about the day-to-day stresses that all of us experience because these are the most consistent worries we have. This book encourages the reader to move away from the belief that we must be happy all the time in order for us to live a fulfilled life. In fact, the more we strive for happiness the more we will suffer in the long term. The author provides mindfulness skills on how to escape the “happiness trap” that will reduce stress and worry. I’ve just started it but can’t wait to learn a new way of thinking that could possibly change the way I live – no pressure of course!

Oryx & Crake – Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood has gained recent notoriety after her book ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was turned in to a TV show this year and shamefully, I hadn’t read any of her books before hearing about her. This will soon be remedied though as Andrew bought me this book as a birthday present and I can’t wait to get stuck in to it! The author has described the story as “adventure romance” which sounds like a mixed bag but I’m totally down with it. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize back in 2003 and has great reviews to support which sells it even more.

All The Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy

Cormac is well known for his bleak themes that dominate most of his work (The Road was not an easy read!) but this book is a little more romantic and hopefully a little easier to digest. I’ve started reading it and while the dialogue is a little different, I quite like the approach since it feels like I’m getting inside the character’s head. The book tells the tale of John Grady Cole, a 16 year old ranger who grew up on his grandfather’s ranch in Texas who runs away after learning that the ranch is to be sold. A wild western book that will surely feel a lot different to my life in Belfast!

Rising Strong – Brené Brown

I’d heard about Brené Brown at a recent blogger’s retreat when the speaker, Mel Wiggins, quoted her in one of her talks. The quote was,

“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow and shame.”

Wowza. Hearing that quote stirred something within me and I knew immediately I had to hear more words from this woman so of course I went straight on to Amazon and ordered a copy of Rising Strong. In this book Brené discusses how the process of rising after a fall, regardless of its magnitude, teaches us the most about who we are. It sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to get deep in to it in the depths of winter.

The Christmas Chronicles – Nigel Slater

Odd to throw a recipe book in to the mix but this isn’t just your ordinary cookbook. Nigel is the most delicious writer and this book his is ode to winter; the season for crisp mornings, candlelight and promise of snow. It was released today and I have pre-ordered it in time for the holidays when I maybe need inspiration more than any other time of the year. I can’t wait to snuggle up with it by the fire and no doubt drool all over it.

 

Happy reading!!

 

If you like this article, then give this one a whirl if you’re struggling with finding time to read or this one if you are in need of finding a new bookshop.

10 Things That You Should Not Let Define You

10 Things That You Should Not Let Define You

I’ll be turning 29 next month which has started a very contemplative phase I like to call the ‘pre-birthday freak-out phase’. It’s around this time that I start questioning where I am, the person I am and the person I want to become.  I know it’s all extremely deep and self-absorbed but I think these are important questions to ask ourselves every once in a while even when you’re not entering the last year of your twenties and flippin’ the feck out.

Self-identity is a can of worms that I am not qualified to open but I thought I would share something that I have come to understand during this haze of panic:

Most of us want to be the best person we can be

Right? We all want to be remembered as being kind/generous/successful people but in the quest for this achievement we can lose sight of what truly defines us. We allow ourselves to become focused on circumstances that we believe to be a crucial part of who are when in fact they are only the stepping stone to being that person. We are always changing as people through the experiences we have but we can’t benefit from these lessons if we are unable to see past our situation.

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I have been guilty of this recently. By nearing 30 I have wondered if I am where I thought I would be by this age. As a teenager I had no concept of time and predicted I would be earning a heck of a lot more, be married, own my own home with maybe a wee bairn on the way. I haven’t achieved any of that but should I let that define whether I am successful or not? Absolutely not.

I honestly believe it is my actions and treatment of others that define who I am. I believe it is the love that consumes me for my family and friends that defines me. I believe it is every experience, heartbreak or euphoric, that defines me. I believe it is the people who I have met and the stories I have heard that defines me. I am made up of all these things and will continue to be made up of more as I grow older and love more.

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Here are the things that I am choosing to not let define me and hopefully you won’t let define you either…

Your Job

As a doe-eyed university student I dreamed of becoming a hugely successful wildlife conservationist and travelling the world as David Attenborough’s understudy (I dreamed big!). Of course I could still become a conservationist if my heart desired but my career has led me down a different path that I am OK with. I am working in the financial world now, an industry I would have turned my nose up as a young environmentalist but I have chosen this career because I know it will help me progress to where I want to go. You might not like your current job or you might be a little disappointed that you’re not where you thought you would be instead focus on where this experience will get you to. I don’t allow my job or how much I earn to define me because I have a whole life outside of work that I believe contributes to who I am too.

Your Marital Status

I am a part of a group of friends who are slowly getting married off one by one and I have been beyond happy watching them commit themselves to the people they love. However, I hate the feeling that people wonder when ‘I’m next’ because it’s as if the happiness of my own relationship is then questioned because we aren’t yet married. We shouldn’t use any relationship as a measure of success, married or otherwise, because it will only lead to an unhealthy dependency on using another person to define who we are. We are all individuals and should always treat ourselves as such when considering our own worth.

Your Age

I know a few of you reading might scoff at me panicking about turning 30 but I think we are all victims of allowing our age to define us. Our age can stop us from making decisions that might change our lives because we either believe we are either too old or too young to accomplish them. We might feel we are too young to question our peers in the workplace and not worthy of the respect we deserve based on our merit. We might feel we are too old to leave a toxic relationship because it will mean we need to start all over again. Your age isn’t you. Those big bold choices in life are what define us and age should never be a barrier to that.

Your Appearance

Honestly the amount of times I have stood in front of a mirror and felt disgusted is too many times to admit but it has happened. I have scrolled through Instagram wondering why I have this pouch that will refuse to leave or why my legs are like wee stumps instead of remembering that the pouch isn’t really all that big and my legs are actually quite toned. Our appearance might be the first thing that people see but the impressions we make go beyond what we see in the mirror. When someone greets you they are looking for the kindness in your eyes, the warmth in your smile or how easy you are to talk to. Your features do not define you.

Your Health

This one may not be specific to some people but I had to include it because it’s relevant to the perception I can have of myself. Having Cystic Fibrosis means that I often feel like I have little control over my life and therefore people’s perceptions of me. I hate that I might be thought of as ‘sick’ because I don’t want my illness to define who I am or what others think of me. I am so much more than a girl who has a bad cough! And you too shouldn’t let your own health define the expectations you have of yourself. So what if you might not be a good runner? You might be better suited to yoga or a gentle swim. Ease up on the pressure and remember that just because you might not be able to run a mile in few minutes doesn’t make you capable of other great things.

Your ‘Stuff

Social media now means that instead of just reading about celebrities in magazines we now have full access to their daily lives. Product after product is being churned out to ‘influence’ us to buy while trends move so fast that sought after items are often outdated by the time we can afford to buy them. We have been a consumer society for a long time now but the pressure is getting a bit ridiculous and we shouldn’t think that buying nice things means we truly successful. I honestly believe our hard-earned money should be spent on experiences because those moments are what should define who we are and are what we will remember when we’re reminiscing in our rocking chairs (when we’re unfashionable no matter what we buy!).

How Many Friends You Have

When I was younger I tended to measure my worth by how busy my social calendar was. I loved having loads of friend and a weekend jam packed with plans which in the end left me feeling exhausted. Now that I’m approaching 30 that need to fill time isn’t quite as potent because I have decided that quality is more better than quantity when it comes to friendships. I have a small group of people around me who I adore and by putting my energy in to those relationships I am left feeling a lot more fulfilled (and I also have more time to myself which I love!). The same goes with social media too. For a while there I definitely felt under pressure to have as many followers as possible and would feel disappointed when I didn’t see the numbers increase the way I wanted. I have come to realise that you need your tribe online just as much as you do in the ‘real world’ and it doesn’t matter if you have 100 or 1 million followers, as long as you have good people engaging with you then that’s what really is rewarding.

What You Consider as Smart

My little sister Shannon is, without a doubt, the funniest person I know. She is so quick-witted that even the smartest people can’t keep up with her! Having such a quick mind means she’s always intuitive and has real common sense and yet despite all of this obvious intelligence, Shannon would never consider herself as ‘smart’. Growing up in western society taught us that intelligence is often measured by success in academia which means that we have a distorted view on what constitutes as smart. Being smart doesn’t mean you can answer all the questions in University Challenge (I have a mini Mexican wave if I get one answer!), have a degree or listen to classical music. You might have a brain for business (like my Dad who is dyslexic) or you might have a true talent with numbers. Don’t define yourself by how many books you’ve read but rather how you use the talents you know you do have.

Your Mistakes

Oh Jaysus, how often I have punished myself for the stupid things I have done or said. I have tortured myself thinking that people’s opinions of me have changed forever on the basis of a single act of stupidity especially as a reckless youth. I have started to discover though that people actually forget mistakes a lot quicker than you do and it’s how you recover from these mistakes that define you the most. Don’t worry that people will always attach your mistake to because they won’t.

Your Race/Religion/Sexuality

Growing up in Northern Ireland, people often used religion to identify themselves and even today there can still be an ‘us’ and ‘them’ language used by many. I was brought up as Catholic and my boyfriend was brought up as Protestant and although neither of us would describe ourselves as religious, it was still a bit of an adjustment for a few family members. In a perfect world we would all be viewed as the same but of course racial tensions are stronger than ever, sectarianism in NI still exists and LGBT members of the community still lack the rights that all humans should have. Despite this we should not let our race/religion/sexuality define who we are. We are more than just a label and if we are united in encouraging that mindset then maybe one day we can live in a society that starts seeing the person behind the label.

 

Have you any thoughts on this? Is there anything in your life that you refuse to let define you?? 

 

Is It Wrong To Be Selfish?

Is It Wrong To Be Selfish?

Last weekend I had a full weekend without any real plans. I woke up on Saturday with the sun filtering through the curtains, stretched my legs out and relished the thought of not having a whirlwind itinerary ahead of me. Living an hour away from my family and most of my friends means that my weekends often involve me rushing down the motorway in my car and trying to catch up with as many loved ones as I can. While it’s always lovely to see my favourite people, I am usually knackered by the end of it and recently I’ve been feeling deflated on a Sunday evening because the weekend had rushed by me in a series of hurried get-togethers.

 

I accepted long ago that I am an eternal people-pleaser however I realised recently that the reason I had been sacrificing my weekends mooching about my own home and lie-in’s in my own bed was because I felt guilty. I had imposed these obligations upon myself because I was afraid what others may think of me if I dedicated a whole weekend to myself and didn’t make the effort to see anyone down at ‘home’. I have this very real fear of appearing to be self-involved and this has led me to live a life that doesn’t always feel like my own.

 

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But what is truly wrong with being selfish? In a time where self-care is the new YOLO, it is becoming more and more apparent that selfishness is not a quality to be revered but in fact requires a lot of courage to embrace. Our generation might be regarded as the most self-aware but this self-awareness is a result of constant competition whether it be through social media, job insecurity or the sheer amount of options we have to choose from.  While having these options is a luxury our parents (or grandparents at least) fought for us to have, there comes with that the overwhelming feeling of never being enough. Am I working hard enough? Have I travelled enough? Am I good enough friend/partner/parent? Am I happy enough? The gap between the life we are expected to live and the life we are truly living seems to be widening which has resulted in more of us experiencing anxiety that is specific to the social changes our generation are facing.

 

My problem seems to be the need to keep others happy. By imposing these expectations upon myself to be the best version of myself that I can be, I have ended up losing touch with what truly makes me happy. I recently read an article by Raymond Nourmand who eloquently put that the less someone’s reaction affects you, the more selfless a place you are giving from therefore in order to be truly selfless we must be truly selfish. Who knew eh???

 

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The next time you are feeling selfish for prioritising your own happiness, give yourself a good shake and instead congratulate yourself! By making the effort to fulfill your needs you are actually caring about yourself which is the ultimate step to being a better person. And this applies to me and my moments of guilt when I haven’t trekked home for the weekend. Taking the time to do something (or nothing) for myself will only make me a nicer person to be around and the time I will be spending with family and friends will be feel a lot more enjoyable.

 

If you identify with anything I have said and would like some ideas on how you can be a more selfish person, I’ve included some tips on when you should choose you over anything else.

 

When you’re too exhausted to meet a friend

Don’t force yourself no matter how long it might have been since you last saw them. They deserve the best version of you, not the too-tired-to-function version who will be ready to sleep after the first sip of wine. Good friends will always understand.

 

When you’re stressed in work

Taking annual leave during a stressful time in work can feel like you’re going against your instincts but this should only highlight how important it is that you need to take some time out. We are all entitled to these days off so you shouldn’t feel guilty in the slightest. By taking a few days off to unwind (and for the love of Jeebus do not check your work emails) you will feel so much more capable to handle the difficult tasks you had left behind (and they actually might not be as difficult now that you’re chilled!).

 

When you’re a parent

I was thinking that the parents amongst you might have chuckled to yourself when reading this post since you have the least amount of time to be selfish as anyone! I don’t have children so please forgive me for trying to give any advice on parenting but I do think that to be the kind of parent you had hoped to be (before the permanent exhaustion and reality hit you like a tonne of bricks), you have to put yourself first now and again. Most parents have a decent enough support system through friends/family/partners and so you should never feel guilty about using this. Make a point of scheduling some time on your own once a week – even just for an hour – like you would any other essential appointment. You are still you and you deserve to remind yourself of that as often as possible.

 

When you can’t say no

If you’re a people-pleaser like me this can be a tough one. I hate letting people down and will often find myself in difficult situations just because I can’t say no. The thing I have started to learn is that people won’t immediately dislike me if I can’t always do what they want me to do and will probably forget it fairly quickly (while I stress about it for days after). If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. Simples, right?

 

When you’re on holiday

Going on a trip with people can be the best way to share memories but there can sometimes be a clash in terms of expectations. Some people love to lie on their backs as close to the sun as possible and others like to cram in culture in to every minute. There’s no shame in either but there’s also no shame in parting ways for the day and doing the things you want to do. Travelling is the perfect opportunity to live the carefree life you don’t usually get to live at home so to avoid any disappointment don’t be afraid to speak up and do your own thing.

 

Have a lovely weekend folks!

My Summer Soundtrack

My Summer Soundtrack

It’s funny how the music we listen to changes with the seasons. In the winter I find myself listening to slow folk and acoustic songs that make me feel cosy on the inside. But in the summer it’s all about dance, soul and R&B. The kind of music that has me moonwalking my way to the back garden with a cold beer in my hand despite the fact that it’s a rainy Monday evening.

 

When we were growing up my Mum would play music in the kitchen in the evenings especially in the summer when the back door would be thrown open and the music would filter in to the garden. She had a big influence on my taste in music and introduced me to artists I’m still in love with today; Prince, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, KC & the Sunshine Band. We listened to songs that taught us how to move and that allowed us to lose ourselves in the rhythm. Songs that taught us soul and about things we were too young to understand (singing along to Prince lyrics as an eight year old is a little disturbing looking back).

 

I thought I might share a few of my favourites that have become my summer anthems over the years. These are the tunes that I play loudly after a shitty day at work and are guaranteed to lift me up and remind me that it’s summer and there is no call for being sad. They are the summeriest of summer songs and you have my total permission to use them for your own summer soundtrack. I recommend being barefoot and having all the windows open. Just don’t blame me if the neighbours get at ya!!

 

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Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

Say what you will about MJ but this song is a classic disco tune that will have you moonwalking your slippers.

Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere

Ugh, Fleetwood Mac and their friggin’ melodies get me everytime.

Van Morrisson – Into The Mystic

“Smell the sea and feel the sky; let your soul and spirit fly in to the mystic”. Lyrics that floored me as a teenager.

Beyoncé – Crazy in Love

Because you can’t have a summer party without Queen B.

Bob Marley – Three Little Birds

This song reminds me of a trip I took around SE Asia with two of my best friends. We got matching tattoos of three birds on our ribcage and every time this song comes on we have a knowing look between the three of us.

10cc – Dreadlock Holiday

The second this song is on I slow down and smile.

Toto – Africa

I love trying to sing along to this song, especially in my car when I know I terrify all other drivers.

Prince – Raspberry Beret

Probably his least filthy song so you can play it a family party.

Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up

Makes me want to have a glamorous poolside party in California.

Will Smith – Miami

Cheesy but so so good!!

Cornershop – Brimful of Asha (Norman Cook Remix)

An oldie but a goodie.

Len – Steal my Sunshine

Despite this being played on every day the sun shines in Ireland I still love it.

U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

The guitars, the drums, the vocals. An Irish classic.

Angus & Julia Stone – Mango Tree

Brings the tempo down for sure but this brother/sister duo melts my summer hear.

LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk Is Playing In My House

To be played loudly preferably with some couch dancing.

The Clash – Rock the Casbah

This was my ringtone in Uni I loved it that much.

The Knack – My Sharona

I defy you not to dance to this song!!

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes – 40 Day Dream

The happiest of summer songs that has me stamping my little hooves with sheer glee.

All Saints – Pure Shores

No one can do 90’s beach chic like All Saints

Jurassic 5 – Work It Out

This is my summer bath tune. Yes that is a thing.

Fatboy Slim – Praise You

A song that will never go out of style. Never.

 

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My Irish Summer Bucket List

My Irish Summer Bucket List

I think most of us have a romanticised view of the summers of our childhood. The days were always warmer, longer and filled with adventure from the moment we woke up. The days stretched out before us in a haze of languid afternoons spent hiding amongst the fields, chasing the sun as it refused to go down. Being sent to bed was the worst punishment as the stubborn daylight continued to haunt us as we lay yearning to be amongst the laughter we could still hear outside.

 

As adults, the punishment now isn’t being sent to bed. It’s being sent to an office where we are forced to stay in and attempt to work while the stubborn daylight haunts us all over again. We are jailed by social responsibilities but are set free for the weekend and in order to make the most of the precious hours, we must think of as many fun things to do to save us from the guilt on a Sunday evening.

 

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Irish people can be a cynical bunch and many smirk at the mention of summer since the weather here is as reliable as our government. That sense of adventure has waned with age but Ireland has so much to offer and we can relive those childhood days, even if it’s just for the weekend.

 

I’ve rounded up a few things I want to tick off this summer in the hope that it might allow me to feel excited about the weekends and less flustered about feeling the need to fill every hour. Having these wee goals helps me look forward to the weekend and appreciate just how much this island has to offer – even when the rain tries to dampen my spirits!

 

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Go to a GAA Match

I’m an Armagh woman and the county football team was at it’s peak when I was a teenager. This meant that a lot of Sundays in the summer were spent on the side of a pitch, wearing the immutable orange jersey while screaming “Go wan Armagh!!” about a million times. I haven’t been to a game in forever and I miss the buzz of the crowd, the embarrassing insults the poor ref always endured and the terrible homemade sandwiches that were snacked on. This year I’ll make sure to don the jersey again and who knows, maybe Armagh might be within a chance of winning the Sam again.

Sleep Under the Stars

Falling asleep listening to the lullabies of leaves rustling or waves crashing might just be the tonic of the summer. I am a keen camper but I don’t make it enough of a priority to just pack up the car and get away for a night. But a night under the stars is always worth the hassle – even just for the melted marshmallows alone.

Run 5km

Running seems to be the trendy thing to do these days and for that reason I am severely unfashionable. I am not a runner and even though I have a good excuse not to be (the old CF lungs are easy to blame), I still really want to be able to run a decent distance. I have an aim to be able to run 5km in one session by the end of the summer so the practice will be starting this week. Just don’t expect me to to talk while I’m running – those freaks can stay well away from me.

Solo Picnic

I love a good picnic and Andrew and I will find time for one on weekends that will allow us to eat outside without being frozen. But this summer I want to take advantage of a little time to myself. Time to chill out, read a book or just listen to my own thoughts bumbling inside my noggin.

Island Hop

Although we live on on an island, there are still lots of little satellite islands that adorn our lovely coast and so I want to explore a few of them this summer. Last summer we visited Rathlin Island which was a blast and my first time seeing puffins up close (ish). This year I hope to visit an island or two off the west coast and get a good dose of that Atlantic air in to my lungs.

Surf

I learned to surf while living in Australia but only really stood up a few times. My lovely Aussie friends bought me a foam board as a birthday present and it has been shamefully lying in our box room gathering dust and no doubt feeling very depressed. This year the board will get wet and I will brace the ice-cold water that will surely have me wanting to dart back to dry land in an instant. I will be brave and I will try and stand up again even for just a second.

Attend the Fleadh

The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is an annual music festival that displays the best of Irish traditional music. I’ve never been but every year I promise myself that I will go. This year is no different but I hope to actual make it this time!

See a Play

I live in Belfast but it’s embarrassing how little I appreciate living in a city with a thriving culture scene. There are plays and musicals every week to take advantage of and so I will be sure to get my thespian head on this summer!

Host an Outdoor Cinema

We have a projector that has been lying lonely alongside my dusty surfboard which will be of much better use when hosting our own backyard cinema. I hope to string up on an old bed sheet, throw a load of cushions on the grass and gather some good mates for an old classic or two. Let’s just hope the weather plays ball!!

 

If I manage to get even half of these ticked off then I feel like I’m in for a fun summer!

Have you your own summer bucketlist? Is there anything you’re hoping to tick off this summer?? 

 

 

Mother’s Day Post: Part 2 – 10 Signs You Are Becoming Your Mother

Mother’s Day Post: Part 2 – 10 Signs You Are Becoming Your Mother

After a weekend with constant sunshine it’s no surprise I’m feeling a little depressed this Sunday evening. Setting an alarm for another week of work is enough to fill anyone with dread but I can’t help but feel content too after such a happy few days. We couldn’t have been luckier with the weather and it was a perfect chance to spend some time outdoors and take that Mum of ours out for a dander in the sun.

 

When I spend time with my Mum these days I find more and more habits and idiosyncrasies of hers that I have slowly started to inherit. It’s enough to scare the bejaysus out of me when I start to snort like her or correct other people’s grammar but it’s nice to know there’s a part of her in the woman I’ve become. Even if that part can be a cynical nag at times.

 

To finish off Mother’s Day I thought I’d share a few signs that you too are turning in to your ma. Try not to let it worry you – it happens to all of us so we might as well embrace the moments of walking in to rooms and forgetting why we’re there (it was probably to make yet another cup of tea).

 

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and here’s to turning in to the women we love most!


10 Signs You’re Turning In To Your Mum

1. You Hold Your Phone a Metre From Your Face To Read Messages

I have caught myself doing this so many times when I’m trying to read a message and I also do that super-attractive face-thing where I pull the corners of my mouth down. It doesn’t even matter if I have my glasses on – it’s just a natural state I find myself in when scrolling through Instagram.

2, You Make Sandwiches for Journeys

My Mum would have had no qualms about sending me off to the airport with a load of ham sandwiches wrapped in cling film when I was headed off travelling. She knew rightly that I probably wouldn’t eat them after they were squished within 5 minutes but it was just an extension of her looking after me. I find myself making wee snacks for long journeys now just in case I find myself in the wilderness and fancy a hob nob – you can never be too careful.

3. You Wear Your Glasses on Your Head and Forget They’re There

My favourite moments are when my Mum walks around looking for her glasses when they’ve been on her head since she put them there to make tea. I don’t tell her of course because the entertainment is just too much.

4. You Make Excuses for the State of the House

9 times out of 10 I’ll walk in to my Mum’s house and she’ll try and excuse the disarray (even when there’s no real mess) because she’s in the middle of some recent deep clean. She takes herself on these notions of gutting out all the cupboards and then gets bored halfway through when she suddenly finds old school reports she knows have always been there. The women has the attention spat of a gnat (but I do love her).

5. You Call Your Children Every Name but Theirs

Now, I know I don’t have children but I couldn’t help but put this in here since I’m sure everyone can identify with it. When we were growing up my Mum would shout for me but come out with my sisters’/dad’s/cousin’s/postman’s name before getting to mine. I couldn’t help but feel slightly wounded when after getting through all those names she still couldn’t get to mine. Definitely something I still carry around with me.

6. You Become Petrified of Being a Car Passenger

Anyone else’s Mum make them feel like Schuhmacher when they’re a passenger in the car? My Mum does this whole dramatic door grab act when I’m turning a corner even though I’m only doing 25mph around a roundabout. Drives me bananas!

7. You Drink At Least 10 Cups of Tea a Day

I have timed my cups of tea to an art form which is something I have definitely inherited from Mother Dearest except she has a good 8 – 10 cups a day in comparison to my 4. I actually don’t think the woman drinks any liquid other than tea which makes me a little afraid that she’s slowly turning in to a used teabag.

8. You Overfeed Any Visitor

Especially male visitors. Having brought up three girls my Mum thinks that men must eat twice as much and forces them to eat everything she has in the house. What she doesn’t realise is that one of her daughters (me) eats just as much as a man. I find myself doing this now though – I’ll insist on feeding anyone that comes in to my house even if it’s just to deliver a leaflet. Definitely an Irish mammy thing.

9. You Hide Evidence of Snacking

As a child my Mum would have never have had a sweet tooth – something she always prided herself on. Fast forward twenty years and she’ll now easily inhale a whole tray of cupcakes and wash them down with a Fanta. It’s gotten so bad that she’s now taken to hiding the evidence for fear of ridicule. I am guilty of hiding this little habit too though – don’t open my car door because there will be mountains of sweet wrappers that will fall on to your feet.

10. You Don’t Care About Looking Like a Stalker

If I miss a call from my Mum and don’t call her back within a half hour I’ll usually get a text followed about another 5 calls. The poor woman instantly worries and doesn’t give a damn if I might be in a meeting or driving my car. We’ve tried to tell her that when we’re free we will call her but I don’t think that’ll ever get through. At the end of the day it’s only because she loves us and how lucky are we that our mothers love us so much that they just can’t wait to hear our voice?

Mother’s Day Post – Part 1: How To Treat Your Mama

Mother’s Day Post – Part 1: How To Treat Your Mama

Happy Mother’s Day weekend! And what a weekend it is! The weather man was actually right for once and the sun is shining down on our wee island leaving us with bucket loads of stuff to do with our Mums. Sometimes it’s a little easy to just grab a bunch of flowers before a Sunday roast dinner (most likely made by her) but this year I’ve been trying to think of better ways to spend some quality time with the aul doll.

 

My Mum lives about an hour away from me so I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like and when I do see her it always feels too rushed. I try to squeeze so much in to my weekends sometimes that I forget how grateful she is when I take a minute to just have a cup of tea with her while we fill out the Irish Times crossword. My Mum is so undemanding of my time and yet she is so quick to be there for me when I need her so tomorrow is her day.

 

What are you doing with your Mums this year? If you need a little help in thinking of ways to spoil her with your time then have a gander at the below ideas I have been thinking about. Whatever you do, be present in the moment with her. Leave your phone in your bag and start a conversation that you don’t want to end. Let the memories and words fill your day together and allow yourself to remember just how lucky you are to have her.

 

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!

Happy Mother’s Day!


How To Spend Mother’s Day

Cook Together

Big T (our adorable nickname for our Mum, Theresa) is the champion of the Sunday Roast, queen of the beef gravy and chief of the spud. We so rarely cook for her so I’ve been thinking how great it would be if we prepared a meal together. Spending time in the kitchen with our Mum is where we can see her at her best and it’s a good way to pick up some tricks and tips too. Why not invite your Mum over this Sunday to cook a feast? Play music you used to listen to her cook to as a kid (The Lighthouse Family and M People were on repeat in our house) and shut the door so you get her all to yourself for an hour or too.

Go Through Old Photos

I love doing this with my Mum. We usually discover old albums when we’re supposed to be doing something else! We sit cross-legged for hours pouring over photos from an age ago and wondering what the hell we were thinking – who ever thought crimped hair was a good idea?! It’s a beautiful way to hear your Mum’s version of events, how she felt on that day or hearing stories you had completely forgotten about. Have a tea party on the floor while your Mum tells you about the time you chucked a fit at the fun fair (or some nicer stories) and remind yourself of some pretty wonderful moments.

Go on an Adventure

One of my favourite memories of my Mum is the time we took a road trip down the east coast of Australia. She was over visiting me at the time and we drove south of Sydney not really knowing where we were headed. We laughed so much over those few days (I still laugh when I remember the time she saw a sign saying ‘Horse Manure’ and thought it read ‘Horse Manicure’ – she thought that horses were getting their hooves filed!) and we both felt free to do whatever we wanted. I saw her at her most relaxed and I was so happy to have been a part of that. Why not take a spin with your Mum this year and explore a bit of the country with her? Don’t plan it too much – just allow yourselves to be free for the day together.

Try Something New Together

We all can get in a bit of a rut and our Mums especially can be reluctant to try anything new. Register the both of you in a class where you’re both beginners – learning something new together will surely bring you closer and might even fill you both with a little more confidence. It’s important to push ourselves no matter what age we are and your Mum might be a little bit chuffed regardless of how nervous she might be.

Go on a Date

Why not dress up and get a little fancy this Mother’s Day? Take your Mum to her favourite restaurant, just her, and treat her to a little decadence. We’re taking our Mum to Castle Leslie tomorrow and I can’t wait to be a wee bit posh for the afternoon. After that we’re taking her to the movies to see Beauty & The Beast – a childhood favourite in our household. I’m a little bit excited about it, mostly for the popcorn.

Remake a Childhood Memory

Did your family ever have a tradition or a place you would visit regularly as kids? Our Mum used to take us to Gosford Park in Armagh when we were tots and I have so many memories of climbing giant trees before getting too scared and wanting her to help me down. Pack up a picnic and take your Mum back to a special spot that will bring back lots of good memories and remind her that she was once a Mum to wee terrors!

 

 

 

5 Ways to Get Out of the Winter Funk

5 Ways to Get Out of the Winter Funk

Hello friends, it’s been a while. I am well aware of the fact that I’ve been neglectful of this wee space over the last few weeks and I want to use the excuse that it’s because I was without a laptop (no lie – it was more difficult being without Pinterest more than anything!) but in truth I was in the middle of a major funk that I am only starting to resurface from. I’m not sure if it’s the weather and my neediness for Spring to be here already but whatever it was it really dragged me under.

 

When I get in to this negative mindset my confidence and motivation are the first to go. I become lazy in just about every area of my life which only makes me feel worse about myself. I am the eternal optimist in the eyes of my friends and yet when this fog comes down I turn in to the person I least want to be; needy, insecure and just a little sad. I don’t really know what triggers the fog but I do think being cooped up inside and forever yearning for a sunny day does tend to influence my pattern of thought – living in Ireland doesn’t help this at the best of times!

 

This state of limbo is not something I talk about often because it doesn’t really happen that often. It’s so common for people to feel this way at this time of year; we’re all waiting for the chill to leave us and for the sun to warm our souls again. But why shouldn’t I talk about it? Because I might share a part of myself that I don’t like? This part of me that’s far from perfect and far from the positive shiny person I want people to see me as is not something I should be ashamed of. Learning to like ourselves is such a necessary step to happiness and so accepting these little negatives is a lesson I will always be working on.

 

The weather is turning though and I can feel the weight being lifted already. Right now I’m writing with speed for this first time in what feels like ages and my fingers can’t keep up with the ideas that are flowing out. Yes spring is here. Actual sunlight is streaming on to the table I am writing at and I can see blue skies from my seat. How good it feels when we can finally see the light at the end of a tunnel we didn’t think would end.

 

Of course the dark moments will come and go but they are always a temporary blip that I shouldn’t pressurise myself to get out of as quickly as possible. I will endure them at my own pace. I will talk as much or as little as I feel I need to. I will like who I am even when I feel I shouldn’t. I will be the first person I am kind to each day.

 

If you are feeling a little burdened by our long winter and are in need of a little positivity to help guide you in to spring, then try a few of the below ideas that I turn to even when all I want to do is throw my jammies on!

 

Make Plans

Every Sunday I like to make my plans for the week which can wreck Andrew’s head because it means planning his as well! But knowing that I have people to see and fun things to look forward to allows me to get excited about the week ahead of me. Surrounding myself with people I like reminds me that I am in a much better place than I think.

 

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Practice Yoga

I went to my first heated yoga class last week and walked out with my mind and body buzzing. I was soaked in sweat but I also felt like I shed a tonne of baggage that I hadn’t realised I was carrying that day. I have known how much good yoga brings in to my life for a long time but the heated class only heightened the positive change. Please try it out! I couldn’t recommend the Flow Yoga Studios in Belfast enough but there are sure to be classes near you if you’re not in the city.

 

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Do A Little Good

I am lucky enough to volunteer on the ‘Time to Read’ programme but to be honest I feel like the children do more for me than I do for them. Watching their confidence grow and the wee improvements they make over time is such a joy and it’s usually one of my favourite parts of the week. You don’t need to volunteer to do good, all it takes is a drive to make someone else’s day a little better. Bringing a smile to someone’s face will surely bring a smile to yours so it’s win-win all round.

 

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Notice Pretty Things

Being a self-confessed Instagram addict means that I am always looking out for the beauty in the things around me. Some people might think that Instagram can create a constant need to share everything and can lead to comparing ourselves to others (which is never a good idea). But keeping an eye out for the little things that I might usually take for granted encourages me to appreciate the corners of my wee world.

 

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Get Outside

Yes Ireland brings an awful lot of rain but this also means that there are endless fields, rivers and forests to get lost in. My favourite place to clear my head is Helen’s Bay. It’s my spot where I go to on my own to feel the sand, let myself get battered by the sea winds and watch dogs lunge themselves in to the waves (dogs make me SO HAPPY). Make time for those solo moments of gratitude, a time to sit and think of nothing. No internal arguments you will never actually have. No memories that make you feel bad. Just your own piece of wonder near you which makes your heart sing a little. Feel free to use mine if you don’t have your own!

 

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Do you have any methods of bringing a little lightness in during the darker moments? Any ideas that will always guarantee a happy head? Would so love to hear them!