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Best of a 100

Posted on 28 September, 2015

The secret I’ve been harbouring these last few weeks is that  I have left my basic Nokia and have gone full swing back to a smartphone! Goodbye moral high ground I’ll miss you!

In the end there were too many things that drove me insane about having an extremely basic phone. A knock-on effect of going back to my smart phone is that I haven’t picked up my big camera since I got the new smart phone. It has been literally gathering dust, and I’m already forgetting the little tricks and tweaks I used with my camera to get the photos I wanted so I have committed to taking a 100 photos in a day once a week.

When Steve asked why 100 I said “just ’cause”. But since he asked it now feels like one of those things I might have read on the internet, then forget, then thought it’s my own idea. Well to the best of my knowledge it is my very own idea.(Cue comments with links to 100,000 other people who have been doing this for 5 years) In my mind my first 100 photos was going to be somewhere majestic. I had imagined a woods with long shadows. In reality I’m filled to my eyeballs with sniffles and cold induced self-pity which equates to “no intention of leaving the house”.

Sometimes I feel bad for Ewan when I’m sickly and not up for doing much but today was one of the days when it wasn’t really a choice. My body looked at the lovely sunshine outside and said ” pah you can keep it, I need a cosy cardigan,blanket and as many tissues as you can find!” and so here is what a cooped up day in the sunshine looks like.

While I took a 100 it would bore you senseless to see 100 over exposed photos, many of which are off my feet, so here are my top 10:)

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The puzzle we made 12 times today

The puzzle we made 12 times today

Whoo whoo

Whoo whoo

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Sweet sweet bed

Sweet sweet bed

My glamourous #ootd a nightdress, trackie bottoms and a cardi, bang on trend!

My glamourous #ootd a nightdress, trackie bottoms and a cardi, bang on trend!

Never a fun time:(

Never a fun time:(

Please make the nail cutting stop!!

Please make the nail cutting stop!!

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What we are reading…

Posted on 22 September, 2015

kids books

 

Ewan would happily spend most of his day being read to. As the reader I try and mix things up quiet a bit. There’s only so many rounds of the same book I can do so we get extensive use out of his library card and I get to keep my sanity. It’s win win.

He is getting to be quiet a harsh critic. If he’s not into it or if you don’t read it with sufficent gusto then he promptly hops of the couch and declares “finished da book” and he’s gone.

So here are a few that pass muster recently:

1) A Further Tale of Peter Rabbit after a few rentals from the library we went all out and bought this one. He wants everything Peter Rabbit has, steamy porridge, cheese and pickles and he often walks around saying things smell of onions. I thought it was too long to keep his attention but I was very wrong. The decision to buy it rather than continually renew it in the library was sealed by the fact that Emma Thompson reads the audio CD and I happy to welcome her into our car!

2) Giraffes Can’t Dance. A friend bought Ewan this and it has made it’s way into the ranks of his all time favourites. All Giraffes at Fota wild life park are now called Gerald after the dancing giraffe himself and spotting the cricket on every page has become his obsession.

3) Upsy Down Town. This one is my favourites to read. It’s mad, colourful and rhymes. With lines like “No one knows why there’s a tiger flying by” what more can I say!

4) Some Dogs Do. On a recent trip to the library a friend recommended this one. I would never have picked it because the illustrations aren’t my kind of thing( I’m also a picky customer) but the story is lovely and from the first reading Ewan has been asking for this one on rolling repeat.

5) Erroll is about a rogue squirrel who gets stuck in box of nuts. Soon after his release, from the box of Nutti Nuts, he develops a strong addiction to peanut butter sandwiches. There is plenty of little details in the drawings which I suspect is what brings Ewan back to this one time and time again.

6) Monkey and Me. This is a simple book with lots of repetition. Highly repetitive books do risk wobbling the pendulum on the insanity barometer but the fact that it’s short, Ewan can finish the sentences and the cuteness of the girl means that it makes the cut. (Update: He just got  quoted this book to me (minus a few pages) in his delusional tired voice and he finished with saying “THE END, I still wide awake Mummy”

7) The Diabolical Mr Tiddles. This book of a cat with dubious morals has won Ewan over and the fact that there is a horse in it called Alan cracks him up!  (Only now am I seeing a theme of cheekiness that appeals to him, and if they are cheeky animals all the better! This should help in further library searches!)

8) Mr Happy. I used to love the Mr Men books and so I tried forcing them on him from a young age. He wasn’t interested until the last few months. The fact that the books are longer than your average toddler book didn’t help their cause but the idea of Happyland and doors in trees with winding staircases has converted him. For me, I’m all about the wallpaper!

9) Mad about Mini Beasts  He got this as a present recently and the timing couldn’t have been better. He was starting to get a bit unsure of all the wriggling creatures that surround this old house of ours but this book has made him curious again about all the bugs and wriggling things we find in the garden and it makes me feel like David Attenborough when go finding mini beasts in the garden!

He has taken to pulling the book below off the shelf but I have warned him that he’s on his own with this one…

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If you’ve any suggestions of gorgeous books for toddlers that read well then I’d love to hear them.

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Free time

Posted on 18 September, 2015

Now that Ewan is in playschool two mornings a week I have a total of four and a half hours to myself in the day time! I have admit at first I had no idea what to do with myself.  Before he started I had great plans. I would do crafting projects, I’d blog so much the key board would break. Uncharacteristically, I even toyed with the idea of going swimming!

He has now being going for a month and I have not done any of these things. Not even once. I have done some grocery shopping, made beds, emptied the dishwasher for the millionth time and tidied up toys in preparation for inevitable destruction. But don’t let me fool you into thinking I’m a regular Cinderella, I ain’t. But finding a rhythm of something that I want to do, in a limited time-frame, which is close to home and free hasn’t been as easy as I first thought. My capacity for housework is limited and it’s not something that I want to work on developing so instead I’m flitting around the place. A few days ago I tackled the wood logs lying in our back garden. 5 years ago when we chopped down trees in our garden and stacked the resulting logs with great talk of buying stoves, cutting wood etc. Last year they acted as a table when I photographed cups on top of them and other than that they haven’t been put to use at all.

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So, I’ve started sawing them for firewood (No comments on my technique please!) . I tried to think of this as a meditative task. I told myself that you could imagine monks doing this to help clear the mind but really my only thoughts while doing it was that these better burn for longer than it’s taking me to saw them!

Having given up on the idea that sawing is meditative I took to timing myself instead. This suits my competitive self much better and now I’ve really gotten into it! When I started it was taking me nearly 10 minutes to saw one log. Shameful I know! Now, I can crack that baby in two in just over a minute. Maybe there’s a sawing Olympic I could train for, hmm!

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While it’s good to have fire wood and like any toddler I love being timed I’m still not sure that sawing is sustainable as a relaxing thing to do. So today I turned to food. I was served an amazing breakfast at a friends house last weekend and I realised I never take the time for a leisurely breakfast. Given that morning start at 7 usually I also don’t really feel like it so this lunch time while Ewan was gluing the table at playschool I took to making Eggs arnold/eggs royale (whatever you call it, the one with salmon!) and it was made me drool a little it was that tasty!

I may not have nailed down something structured to do with my time but it turns out messing around with logs and eggs has it’s charms.

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Must I see dead babies to imagine a catastrophe?

Posted on 8 September, 2015

Fintan O’Toole’s piece yesterday titled “Must we see dead babies to imagine a catastrophe?” talks about Europe’s reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis and considers if European governments have become so far removed from our war crises that we can no longer sympathise.

Fintan’s piece got me thinking not about the ideals of Europe but about my own responses. Must I see dead babies to imagine a catastrophe? My truthful answer is that sometimes that’s not even enough for me to imagine their horror. Sometime I choose not to and sometimes I simply can’t imagine it.

I see horrific images regularly and the scary fact of it is that it has very little effect. This isn’t something I am looking to boast about. Photos of dying children come through the post when emergency appeals letters arrive from charities and I don’t break down in tears. Any time I watch television the ads seem filled with horrific images of children’s suffering, I feel uneasy but I don’t call to donate each time.

I know that I have built a filter around the images of suffering, be they children or adults alike. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed listening to the news or checking news apps that I simply stop. I cut myself off from it all because I have no idea what to do about it.  I seek out nice images, articles about anything other than brutality because frankly I can’t hack it. I don’t have that fire in my belly to join an NGO and work one crisis tent at a time. I know I won’t leave the comforts of my home to go into the next war zone. And so I feel powerless and I deal with that by switching off. I distract, defer or ignore.

If an image is so stark, like that of Aylan Kurdi, then it does have an impact. It is so hard to take in. When I first looked at it I couldn’t grasp it? And when I did, when I realised what I was looking at, a small boy, dead on the beach with water around him my filter came down. But I can only let it in a little. I can only let my mind linger on that thought for a short time. I allow myself to linger longer than the images I filter quickly but not long enough for my imagination to be carried into the true extent of the horrors of war and fleeing your home.  I can’t carry the imagination of that families tragedy with me for long so I do something different. I look to ease the discomfort of imagining their lives and I look online . I find 5 things you can do from Ireland to help this refugee crisis and I do two of those. Does that help? I don’t know. Who am I looking to help, them or me? I don’t know.

I haven’t signed the  petition to say Ireland should take more refugees.  We all know that living in direct provision in Ireland is an embarrassment to the country. The Ombudsman for Children is not allowed to investigate specific cases of children in direct provision despite them requesting the governments permission to do so. HIQA say they have grave concerns over the safety of children in direct provision. It’s not so long ago that a judge in Northern Ireland refused to send a family who had been seeking asylum in Ireland back to the Republic. It was reported that the direct provision situation here is such that the family were at risk of inhumane treatment if they were sent back here.

Who am I to say come one and all to our in adequate system where we can’t even guarantee the safety of your children. Maybe we all seek to ease our conscious by saying come, come in your plenty, but just so you know we haven’t looked after the 4,ooo plus people who already live in the limbo that is direct provision. I’m not saying we should close our gates but I am saying that agreeing to take people into our country comes with responsibilities. I am less concerned about the number of refugees Ireland gives entry and more concerned about that everyone who comes to live here gets the right to do so in safety and with dignity.

In many ways I know so little about it all that I feel at sea talking about it. Can I imagine their tragedy after seeing the images? I really don’t think I can but it took that image for me to even try. I think we can only truly sympathise when their experience isn’t far from our own. Which is the point Fintan O’Toole made in his article, when we are not far from war ourselves then we know how it’s victims feel. But here we are so comfortable and removed from war that I actively try and protect that view point. I aim to keep my world small and secure, one I can understand. With that I make choices about what I let in. So as horrific as it may be to see Aylan that is what it took, for me at least, to drop my filter and for a moment or two longer live with it and try to imagine the unimaginable.

 

PS I’ll be doing this  on Friday 11th September if you want to join in.

Traditions and the best pizza dough ever!

Posted on 4 September, 2015

 

 

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I have always been a creature of habit. I have ordered the same thing in Wagamamas since it opened in Cork  10 years ago (yasai katsu curry and duck gyozas!).In the past I’ve branched out because apparently change is good for you but without fail I regretted not picking my reliably delicious favourite. Recently my eating out in the restaurant opportunities are non-existent so we have started a new Friday night habit. Actually, habit sounds like a problem I need to kick so I’ll  elevated it to a Friday night tradition.

Instead of bustling restaurants or going out for pints our “living it up ” on Friday nights is made up of Steve’s homemade pizzas, occasionally wine (if we remember to buy it) and watching a film on the projector. This may be bringing the predictable to a new level but I’ll happily concede that I’m already counting the hours until pizza o’clock!

For months Steve has been tweaking and experimenting with the recipe for his base and his months of hard work have paid off. He has hit on a recipe that gives consistently amazing crunch crusts and I have appropriately named it the best pizza dough in the world ever. And you lucky devils can now reap the benefits too!!

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Ingredients for 2 pizza bases!

350 gm Strong Flour

1 sachet of dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp of golden syrup (or honey)

Jug of warm water

A food mixer with a dough hook, or a flat surface and plenty of elbow grease.

 

Preheat your oven to around 50 degrees Celsius while you make your dough. You will need a warm oven to help the dough rise once you’ve made it. To begin, throw all the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl, add in the syrup and start to add in the warm water while your mixer kneads the mixture. Keep adding a little water until the dry ingredients comes together into a dough. After a few minutes of mixing you want your dough to be firm and not too tacky or wet to touch. If you have added in too much water, you can always add in a little more flour. The dryer the dough the easier it will be to roll out later and you will get a better crust. After a good five minutes of mixing, you can remove the dough from the mixing bowl.  The mixing bowl should now be clean on the inside from the dough being mixed like so…IMG_2355

Now you take the dough out of the bowl. Then rub a little olive oil around the inside of the bowl  this is so when the dough rises, it doesn’t stick to the side of the bowl and it means its is easy to get it out when you are ready to use it.. Pop the dough back into the mixing bowl or any metal bowl you have. Cover the bowl with cling film and place into your preheated oven for a few hours before you make your pizzas. After it has risen to twice its original size, you can either use it straight away or leave it in your fridge until the next day if you prefer.

To make your pizza, preheat your oven to at least 200c. Scoop out a portion of the dough from your mixing bowl. Sprinkle a little flour on a flat surface and roll out the dough with a rolling pin into whatever shape you enjoy your pizza. Try not to use too much flour at this stage as it takes away from the taste. Place the rolled out pizza base on some baking paper and leave it on a baking tray. We use regular rectangular baking trays rather than a pizza stone and it works well.

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Dress your pizza any way you like and cook it in the centre of your oven for about twelve minutes at 200 degrees celsius!

When it come to dressing pizza my dislike of cheese comes into play. Pizzas without cheese is perfectly delicious no matter what the cheese fanatics say. We tried various kinds of exotic tomato concoctions for our pizza sauce. We went from homemade sauces to artisan locally made sauces but in the end we found that Lidl’s passatta sauce works just as well as any of them. I have stolen my toppings suggestions from a local pizzeria  but if you thought not having cheese on my pizza was radical then you certainly won’t approve of the addition of fruit!. My Friday tradition is thinly sliced plums, parma ham and rocket and let me tell you it is so gooooooooddd!! In the picture below I forgot to buy rocket so I replaced it with baby spinach instead which was pretty epic as well. There really isn’t too much need to over think your toppings either, aim for 3 or 4 things you really like and let’s face it, it’s pizza, it’s going to be amazing!!

There are only 4 more hours to pizza o’clock here!! If you have any other winning combinations of pizza toppings I’d love to hear them to add to our Friday night tradition!

 

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Have a delicious weekend,x

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Kvell

Posted on 2 September, 2015

I was browsing the internet aimlessly, as you do, when I cam across a new word that fits perfectly with my experience today. Kvell. Have you heard it before? It’s a verb that means “to burst with pride”.

Last week Ewan started playschool and he has been an absolute legend. Up until now I would never have thought playschool would be his thing. Those that know him felt our anxiety and thought that while he might not settle straight away in time he would be okay with the idea. We had resolved ourselves for a rocky start but we kept saying the mantra “it’ll be good for him, it’ll be good for him”.

Well, we were all wrong. On his first day he ran in smiling and delved into a box of trucks. As for tears when I left, there was no such thing. He barely lifted his head to say good bye. I was dismissed with a flick  of the wrist and  a quick “bye” and that was it.

He is going to playschool for two days a week for two and a half hours which felt like an eternity when we signed him up but really it is over in the blink of an eye and I get about a third of things done that I have planned for that time. As for him even though he has there only been three times in his life it has quickly become his favourite place in the world!

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While he had an amazing time. I was a mess. Seeing him happy playing with toys before I left didn’t convince me that he would be fine. I thought a half an hour in and he would realise I was gone and be upset. It wasn’t until I went to collect him and he refused to come home with me that I believed he really is happy there, without me. And while a part of thinks,”well thanks it’s only two and a bit years we’ve spent together !” the other, larger, part of me is kvelling! (see I used my new word in a sentence:)

I love  that he defies what we had decided was his character. It annoys me when I hear myself explain his hiding by saying ” he’s just a bit shy” in an apologetic tone.  I think I’m concerned that the persons unanswered question, or  the”hello” that didn’t receive a reply requires some explaining and so for fear of causing offence I say “oh he’s a bit shy”. Shyness is nothing to apologies for  yet every now and again I find that tone slipping out. I remember once I said to Steve that he’s very shy and Steve said he isn’t anything yet. I was taken back our little man is loads of things! But what he meant is he isn’t anyone thing. He could be anything and any kind of person. He is two. It is far too early for him to be one kind of child or another. He is growing. He is learning. He is figuring out how to be in different settings, with different people who all engage with him differently. Life is tricky enough and so for the moment I’m relishing in the lesson that he has taught me by starting pre-school so easily. My little man can do just about anything and he will decide exactly how he wants to be when he wants! I know I’m definitely over kvelling now but I don’t even care!!

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