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A Wheaten Bread Recipe

A Wheaten Bread Recipe

Growing up in Ireland has meant that I have a natural affinity for bread products. Just take a look at the classic Ulster Fry and you will see a plate riddled with carbs; toasted soda farl, potato bread, pancakes and a few rounds of toast. For me though the crowning glory of Irish bread has to be the humble wheaten. As a child I would always go straight for the wheaten loaf in my granny’s house where there would always be a stock kept high on the counter wrapped in a kitchen towel. I would slather it in butter followed by raspberry jam and wash it down with a mug of tea (you cannot have a toasted wheaten without tea and that’s a scientific fact).

For the unfortunate amongst you who don’t know what wheaten bread is (oh my, what you have been missing out on), it’s a bread (duh) made from wholemeal wheat. What makes it different to other breads (and therefore easier to make) is that it doesn’t contain yeast; bicarbonate of soda is used instead as the leavening agent. Buttermilk is also used instead of regular milk which reacts with the bicarbonate of soda which gives it it’s distinctive consistency (and yumminess).

To this day, wheaten bread remains one of my favourite snacks, especially at this time of year when the nights are begging for a nostalgic treat. It was the food I missed the most when I lived in Australia; so much so that I actually packed a couple of loaves in my suitcase to take back with me when I was home visiting. It was and still is the food that tastes like home to me.

Another reason why I love it is because it’s so freakin’ easy to make. No yeast means there’s no temperature controls to be monitored or waiting around for the rise. You can throw this recipe together in the space of an hour and serve it to guests who will think you are a culinary goddess (as well as creating a smell that will make your house smell divine).

I’ve included the standard recipe that I tend to use though of course there are a few local twists you can make to it according to where you’re from. It’s a recipe that’s as old as the hills and every family likes to garnish it their own way. Toast it and slather with butter and jam or eat it with some slices of mature cheddar or add some salmon and dill and serve as a festive amuse-bouche if you don’t mind or serve it as a side to some hearty chowder or soup on a winter’s evening.

It can be sliced gracefully or it can be ripped apart while you stand in the kitchen holding a jar of jam. What it will always be though is a recipe that will make you feel like you’re at home, even when you aren’t.


Irish Wheaten Bread

Ingredients

  • 300g wholewheat flour
  • 100 grams plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 300mls buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon rolled oats

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.
  2. Place the flours, salt and bicarb in a bowl, stirring to combine.
  3. Using your fingertips, rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the sugar and stir to combine.
  5. Gradually stir in the buttermilk until you get a soft, but not sticky, dough. You won’t need to use all of it. Don’t worry too much if it is sticky -just dust with some extra flour!
  6. Turn out onto a floured surface, and briefly knead the dough (with your knuckles). Pop the dough into a lightly floured 20 cm cake tin or bread loaf tin, and shape into a round.
  7. Using a sharp knife, mark the dough into four farls or slice if using bread tin. Brush the surface with a little extra buttermilk, then sprinkle over the oats (or some additional flour).
  8. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. A cake tester should come out pretty much clean when it is ready.
  9. Leave to cool on a wire rack for as long as you can bear. Enjoy!

 

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What Not To Worry About #43

What Not To Worry About #43

Happy Thanksgiving Day to my transatlantic pals!! I hope the turkey is tastin’ good and the gravy turned out a tad thicker than aul Trump’s hair. I am playing American myself this evening and hosting some friends for my own Friendsgiving dinner with an Irish twist (no marshmallow on sweet potato thank you very much – absolute sacrilege) but most of all I am excited to try making bread rolls for the first time (and wine!), please pray that they turn out well!

It seems that the festive season is among us now whether we like it or not. The city Christmas lights have been switched on, the markets have been opened and the TV adverts are making us weep in to our dinners. And do you know what? I think I’m OK with it. Maybe because I’ve been abnormally organised and have ticked off half of my gift list (who even is this person typing this?!) and now I’m just patiently waiting until the 1st December when I can move my couch from the door that leads to the cupboard under the stairs where all my decorations are stashed.

I’m feeling just a little bit excited about untangling the never-ending stream of tree lights (and cursing them when I see there’s even more broken than the year before). Covering myself in bits of tinsel while blasting the Christmas music through the house which Andrew will undoubtedly turn down and then I will turn back up again. Unearthing decorations I completely forgot about and then go out and buy even more because there’s never enough. Making my own wreath at the dinner table and covering the house in pine needles. Rediscovering my love of red wine (but not the hangovers). Making hot whiskeys for my guests. Baking gingerbread that permeates through the house like a warm hug. Holidays are comin’ folks!

However you may feel about this time of year, there is no denying that there is just a little bit of magic in the air. The crisp wind bites around our ears and noses as the stars twinkle above us well before we go to bed. The little moments become more meaningful; a cup of tea that warms us up perfectly, a catch up with a mate you haven’t seen in ages, wriggling in to clean flannel PJ’s after a hot bath. Comforting in the smallest of joys is my favourite thing about winter.

Here are a few things I am letting go of this week…

People who put their decorations up in November – usually I give off about this because I am always afraid of being burnt out my Christmas before it even arrives but there is a wee sneaky glee when I’ve been driving past houses shrouded in festive spirit. The people who celebrate Christmas a little early tend to be the one’s that go hell for leather too – wonderfully tacky reindeers and Santa’s and elves. I always wonder, how much is their freakin’ electric bill?! I am old.

A cough that just won’t quit – I have had the most annoying cough the last few weeks and I have had to sleep propped up like a pensioner otherwise I bark all night which is no fun for anybody. The doctor diagnosed me with tracheitis and said I just have to “ride it out” which is exactly what you want to be prescribed, isn’t it? I’ve been trying ginger tea but if anyone has any other wee old wive’s cures then hit them this way please!

Being a wife – now I know I am not a wife but there might be a chance that I will some day and that terrifies the crap out of me. Will I suddenly have to don an apron and be responsible for keeping a tidy home? Being a Mrs. also sounds really weird too and reminds me too much of being a middle-aged teacher. A feminist manifesto from the 1970’s resurfaced in this article and I loved how relevant it still is for modern wives – they have to be everything to everyone and that sounds bloody exhausting doesn’t it?

Saying no – I talked about the workshop I took part in recently that talked about different personality traits and I discovered, to no surprise, that I am a people pleaser. If you’re like me then this time of year can be a struggle because you want to be stuck in with everything but this can be exhausting. This year, while I relish in being around friends and family, I’ll also be sure to take a little time to myself too.

Struggling with words – sometimes writing this wee blog can cause me to feel insecure about my words, if they mean something or if they connect with anyone. Reading pieces like this make me fall back in love with writing again.

 

Enjoy the rest of your week friends!

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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What Not To Worry About #42

What Not To Worry About #42

Happy Friday friends! Things have been a little quiet in this wee corner of the internet the last week or so and I have really missed nestling down and sharing my thoughts with you lovely lot. I’ve been finding it really hard to focus recently and the things that bring me so much joy (like this blog) have fallen to the wayside which has left me feeling even more disconnected. I have learned over the years to not rush myself when I am feeling like this since it’s important to let myself feel the hurt no matter how difficult it may be.

I spoke about losing my sister before and with her anniversary falling on the 5th November, this is a time of year that I struggle with her absence the most. It tends to bring back a lot of memories of the time we lost her which was horrific for everyone who loved her but it also stirs up memories of our childhood together too which is as heartwarming as it is painful. Grief, although omnipresent, can be harder to bear on certain days and despite the fact that it’s been 7 years since she passed away, I am still blindsided by my yearning to have her near me again.

Unfortunately losing someones we love is one of life’s greatest and most cruel lessons. Some of us may be lucky enough to be spared this lesson until we are in our thirties or forties but losing someone at a young age is a life-changing experience. We are thrusted in to reality unprepared for what lies ahead with few emotional tools to help us succeed in managing our grief. However we are given something that most people stumble through life unknowingly searching for. Something that allows us to appreciate everything we have. Gratitude.

Now I know the word ‘gratitude’ can be thrown about a little too flippantly and is normally associated with meditative jargon but to be truly grateful every day is nothing to be sneered at. Losing someone we love teaches us that everything in this life is temporary, that every moment and every word spoken has more weight carried within it than most people can even imagine and that even when things feel rough, we are still grateful to be alive to experience even a drop of sadness. I am grateful every day to have had Amy in my life and that gratitude allows me to appreciate all those memories. After all, I’m the only person on this earth that got to be her big sister, how lucky does that make me???

And with that gratitude in mind, here are a few things I am not worrying about this week. What are you letting go of???

Missing out on dating – Ah the single life. I do miss it now and again; the thrill of being attracted to someone and not being sure where it’s going, that little buzz in your tummy when you’re messaging and don’t want to ever stop. Reading this article brought all the fuzzies back but it also shared some really great advice for anyone who is single and in need of some encouragement.

Having weird turn-ons – OK so when Andrew and I met, these were the weird things that attracted me to him:

  1. He would be just as enthusiastic about Bake Off as I was
  2. He smoked rolled cigarettes (he has since quite bless him and I wasn’t a smoker but there was something so damn sexy about watching him roll, I was a hypnotised mess).
  3. He got excited about seeing his niece and nephew
  4. He would read aloud ‘Today I Learned’ stories from his favourite website before we went to sleep (this was from Reddit of course, he is a nerd after all)
  5. He wore a plain white t-shirt with jeans (I may have some sort of James Dean complex)
  6. He would keep everything from our dates and trips away knowing that I loved to make scrapbooks
  7. He loved board games
  8. He understood things I could never wrap my head around and would patiently explain them to me (coding, stocks, actually saving money)

The reason I’m sharing is because I read this article the other day and learned that having a bizarre turn on isn’t actually all that bizarre. In fact most of us have one or two – you have one too, don’t you?

Running out of conversation – I love having friends over for dinner this time of year, when people prefer staying indoors cosied around a table and eating good food. Sometimes the conversation can run a bit stale which is why I loved reading this, full of tips to ensure a good hostess never has to experience that awkward silence.

Gift mind blanks – The festive season is approaching and I’m trying to be organised this year with my gifts so I avoid the last minute dash to the week before Christmas and over-spend in panic. I’m trying to curate my gift list and man is it hard to buy for some people (especially Dads/boyfriends) – is there anything you use to help inspire you for gift ideas? Please help a girl out here.

Not being able to write – I’ve been feeling low about not being able to write because my mind was full of so many other things. I need to go easy on myself during times like this because it never lasts too long. I am so happy to be back here again.

 

Have a lovely weekend folks!!

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.

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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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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A Guide to Copenhagen in Winter

A Guide to Copenhagen in Winter

Winter is the season to live slowly and with the movement of slow living grasping Instagram and beyond, the Danish word ‘hygge’ has become the fashionable word to use. There is no English definition of this word but generally it can be translated as a feeling that comes from taking pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special. This ideology is right up my street and I just knew Copenhagen was the perfect choice for a last getaway before my Aussie visitor ended her European travels. A bonus was that my baby sister Shannon was persuaded to tag along with us – a first trip away as adults!

We found a great deal on flights (£40!!!) with Ryanair from Dublin and booked ourselves an apartment on Airbnb. I know most people know all about Airbnb but if you haven’t, make sure to look the website up next time you’re booking a break. Andrew and I use it everywhere we go and it’s a great way to get a sneak peek in to local life. We were staying in an apartment in Vesterbro which is a little west of the city centre but super handy as we were right on the main street that took us directly in to town. The apartment was small but had everything we needed including a wee balcony to enjoy in the mornings – if you fancy having a nosy you can check it out here. The owner Janice was lovely and allowed us to check out at 5pm because our flight home wasn’t until 8pm – fab host!

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We had three wonderful days in Copenhagen so I’ll fill you in on what we did each day…

Saturday

We landed at around 7pm which was a perfect time to get to the apartment and start a quest to find somewhere to eat. The airport was only 20-25 mins away and I couldn’t get over the lack of traffic! We were at our new home in no time to meet our host Janice who gave us a quick tour of the apartment. With that over we headed out immediately in search of food and stumbled upon Restaurant Ngoc Linh, a Vietnamese that did the tastiest shredded pork! Unfortunately Belfast doesn’t have a Vietnamese restaurant (at least I’m almost certain it hasn’t although if I’m wrong please tell me!) so I was overjoyed to taste some authentic South East Asian food.

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After we were fed we of course had to be watered so I did what any good tourist does and searched for the best bars on Tripadvisor. I had read that the Meat Packing District was a new up and coming place however we found ourselves on what seemed to be called ‘Thai Corner’ amongst a street of strip clubs – not exactly what we had in mind! We found a few places but they were all ‘bodegas’ – bars that allow smoking inside – not a good idea for Shannon and I! Embarrassingly we ended up in Kennedy’s, an Irish Bar! We were just so happy to find a warm pub that we stayed here until 1am and to my amazement I was able to keep up with the young things and we carried on after to the clubs of Verstergrade until 4am!

Sunday

I was relieved to wake up feeling only semi-horrendous on Sunday morning but after a Berocca and a litre of water I was grand and ready for some brekkie. We headed out in the hope of getting breakfast at Granola, a popular place in the area, but to our disappointment it was jammed and so we headed off for an alternative. We found Café Phenix not too far away which served an amazing buffet breakfast and made our hungover hearts sing. Well mine and Shannon’s anyway – Holly was feeling so under the weather she had to go back to the apartment to rest!

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After a dose of pancakes, bacon, eggs, muesli and weirdly salmon, Shannon and I trotted down the main street to the Tivoli Gardens. I was incredibly happy walking along the street, peering in to all the wonderful shop fronts of so many wonderful small businesses. All the shops had their windows and doors adorned with fir and lights and candles were to be found flickering on steps to give customers a feeling of welcome.

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If the sheer abundance of candles didn’t give us a sense of magic then the Tivoli Gardens were sure to deliver and that it did – and more! From the moment I spied the gates of the second oldest theme park in the world, I knew I was about to step in to a truly special place. Christmas music was drifting intertwined with the smell of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts… I could barely contain myself.

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The sheer scale of the park was what shocked me the most. Everytime I thought we were coming to the edge of the park we would turn a corner and find new stalls, rides and games to discover. We ended up spending the day here because there was so much to see and for an entrance fee of only £13 I thought it was a bargain. Shannon and I stopped for a stein of beer in a few of the many bars and restaurants to warm up from the bitter cold outside and Holly joined us later when she felt a little more human. As she she arrived the lights came on around the park and the trees lit up the walkways and lakes surrounding us – it was like a Disney winter wonderland!

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We had dinner in Mazzoli’s, a rustic Italian joint that served authentic Italian food with incredible flavours. It was so welcoming and we stayed there for quite a well as we knew the temperature outside was dropping quickly. We finished off the dinner with some great hot chocolate and made plans to head back the apartment to have an early night and get cosy.

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Monday

We woke up fresher on Monday morning and full of plans to make the most of our last full day in the city. We headed out for breakfast at Café Obelisk and had the Danish version of a full fry (a slice of brie with breakfast? Yes please!) before a walk through the streets of the city centre. I spent most of the walk gazing upwards at the stunning Scandinavian architecture which proved slightly dangerous but the Danish are so polite they just got right out of my way. Speaking of the Danes though, they have it all figured out! Everyone cycles everywhere which explains the lack of traffic and they are super friendly that I felt so welcome despite my terrible and non-existent Danish!

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As we passed the City Hall and walked down the shopping streets with blinders on we headed towards Nyhavn. Before we flew to Copenhagen I had seen pictures of the canal of Nyhavn with the most colourful buildings dotted along it with the boats in the foreground but I had no idea just how beautiful it would be in real life. It was breathtaking because as we got there the sun began to go down and the sky started turning a cerise pink which only allowed the colours to become more saturated. Needless to say I took a million photos although none of them to do the scene justice.

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After a mega-large stein of beer to fuel us, we then walked across the bridge towards Freetown Christiana where the sunset had taken on a new level of amazingness. Freetown is an area that was once used as an army barracks but when the army moved out in the 1970’s, squatters began to move in and it has since been declared as autonomous from Denmark. It’s a pretty special place that embraced the hippie movement and was such a stark contrast to the military history of the land so of course we had to go there.

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We strolled through the streets as it started to get dark and because there are no street lights or cars in Freetown, there was an almost eerie feeling as the sun disappeared. We never felt in danger and despite getting lost amongst the wooden framed houses, a friendly local was happy to point us in the direction of a bar. Another thing about Freetown is that cannabis is smoked openly and so as we entered the bar we were greeted with a cloud of smoke and quite a few glazed eyes staring back at us. Luckily there was another bar that Shannon and I could breathe easily in so we headed there for another wee beer.

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As we began our trek back to the apartment we were overcome with starvation and needed respite from the icy cold winds. Luckily we spotted an Irish Bar called The Dubliner (how predictable I know and I can feel the head shakes as I type) but I had the best belly-warming beef and guinness pie so there were no regrets! We were back home at a reasonable hour to warm ourselves up and rest our tired hooves from a big day of walking.

Tuesday

This was our last day in Copenhagen and because Holly was flying to London at 3pm and we were flying a few hours after, we decided not to stray too far from the apartment. We managed to go as far as Kaffestuen for some lunch and a dander and enjoy our final hours in our Danish apartment.

I said my goodbye to Holly which was quite tough but I felt so lucky to have her for a whole month. This is the danger with having friends across the world – you feel like you’re constantly saying goodbye. Shannon and I were left on our own to pack our things before heading to the airport.

I didn’t feel quite ready to leave Copenhagen because I felt so at home there but I know I will be back again to explore even more. I couldn’t recommend it enough and if you’re ever in need of a winter escape, make sure to consider this city because it’s the perfect place to have a slow, relaxing time in a place that it is really brimming with magic.

 

 

 

 

What Not To Worry About #3

What Not To Worry About #3

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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