21 Mar

Surviving Job Loss

All of a sudden in the past 10 days 100’s of thousands of people lost their jobs. That’s people with mortgages, rent, children, responsibilities, and in a literal night and day shift they go from having money to pay for all these things to not.

That movement from having a job to having none was brutal and life changing and terrifying. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. There’s a gut wrenching worry and the unrelenting terror that keeps you awake at night and makes you think of nothing else. Then you see people outside going about their regular business and you feel like shouting at them because they shouldn’t be when your entire world is falling apart.

It’s looking likely that my husband will also lose his job in the next week or so and I find that familiar anxiety rising in me. This time though I have the benefit of having been through extreme financial difficulty before and I know how to manage.

Step One: Prioritise

The most important thing right now is to try and stay well and socially distanced (and wash your hands). You do this by figuring out what is important and MUST be paid for as opposed to should be paid for.

What are at the top of the list? Simply food, light, and heat. You need all these three to stay well. If you have a mortgage or rent there are systems set in place now to ask for a break from the banks etc. Use these if you have to. There is no shame in doing this.

Step Two: Solidarity

We are not in this on our own. During the recession everybody was treated individually and at times when it was difficult I found that I felt we were being picked on by the bank. The difference now is that people have been laid off all at once. So you have others to speak to that are in the same situation; reach out, text your coworkers and friends, us social media. Don’t feel on your own. This will help.

Step Three: Focus On What You Can Control

The Covid-19 crisis, not having a job, being cooped up in the house? All of these you can’t control.

You can control the small things. You can make a cup of tea, sort out the bottom of the fridge for once, organise the laundry, hug your kids. These things you can focus on. If you focus on the small stuff and allow the bigger things to take care of themselves you will begin to feel better.

Step Four: Reduce and ReUse

Take a look at your finances, figure out what you can let go. Ring your service providers and negotiate a reduced repayment arrangement. Cut out those crappy monthly subscriptions that you don’t need anymore.

Get a large sheet of paper, write down all the food you have in the house. See how many meals you can get out of that. Plan your meals. Wash your hands.

Step Five: Endure

Know that you are not on your own. You will get through this.

Decide something nice that you will do when you get through the other side. You will get through the other side. It could be a trip to the hairdressers or a pint in the local pub. Whatever. Promise yourself you will do that and work towards it.

Me?

I’m just working towards the day we have free hugs for everyone!

Seriously though this is so blooming difficult and I wish we didn’t have to go down this road again. I’m grateful that I have the skills to survive though.

We will endure.

11 Mar

Online Resources For Isolation

Here we have it. My free ‘what the heck do I do with my kids while they are at home in isolation’ guide to online resources. Bookmark this; in all likelihood we are all going to need it.

Just to mention; don’t unleash your kids at all of this in the first day or even days. There is loads for them to work their way through. If you let them do everything all at once they will become overwhelmed and disinterested.

Learning to Code

Suitable for all ages, Coding is something that we have been doing for a few years. Code.org is a free resource which starts your kids from scratch (sorry folks I couldn’t resist) with familiar characters to make the lessons feel more like playtime.

If you’re interested in moving a bit further than code.org then install Scratch on your pc. We’ve had some good fun with this free application.

Free Books & Magazines

I’m a huge fan of our library card opening a whole new world of reading and enjoyment. If you’re in isolation you’re not going to be able to visit the library but your card gives you free access to BorrowBox which includes free audiobooks and ebooks, you can also read magazines on RBDigital using that same card.

Learning to Type For Free

Libraries in Ireland have recently rolled out TTRS (Touch Type Read Spell) membership for members but this has to be activated in person. If you’re not in isolation get to the library and set up your account. TTRS is brilliant for children who have dyslexia, dyspraxia and other specific learning disabilities. Think about it though, your child being able to type from a young age will be hugely beneficial later on in life. While you’re at it you might like to sign yourself up too. I know how to type but I still got myself an account.

Other Free Library Benefits

Use your library app (mine is Fingal Libraries) to access free language courses online using Mango, online courses for adults in subjects such as psychology, accounting, free homeschooling resources etc using Universal Class, you can also access an Irish Language database plus oodles more. For Free.

Safer Browsing

I learned this one from the kids’ school actually. It’s a browser called KIDDLE. It’s a ‘safe’ visual search engine for kids. It is safer than letting your children loose on Google.

Free Colouring Sheets can be found here https://www.dltk-kids.com/coloring.htm

Origami is great for fine motor skills. You’ll find free folding directions here https://www.origami-resource-center.com/free-origami-instructions.html

Keeping Active

You know that if you are in isolation your kids can still play in the garden? So long as you ensure that you all keep your distance from others it’s fine to let them out to run amuck. You might not have a garden though or the weather might be dire (I do live in Ireland after all). GoNoodle is a free app and YouTube channel which is designed to engage kids in the classroom (so in tight spaces). Clear a small area of obstacles and get active in bursts.

Speaking of which if you do manage to get out and about this Irish website about Biology might get you started on taking part in a biodiversity study or taking a look at your surroundings.

Keeping Up With Irish

TG4 have their own microsite for children based around their popular Cúla4 kids content. You can of course catch up with their favourite cartoons etc in Irish but they also have a Games and Crafting section on the website which is very helpful. Not forgetting their apps which are second to none.

Looking for similar in English? RTéjr is just as good.

History

What older kid doesn’t love Horrible Histories? Once again there’s games around a historical theme on this website by Scholastic.

Is Maths your thing? Math is fun is free and has oodles of stuff to keep everybody occcupied.

I remember learning to play chess many years ago and it’s a great way to keep a small brain occupied and working on strategy.

Does your child have a healthy interest in Science? The American Museum of Natural History has a wonderful child-friendly website which will keep them engaged as they work their way through the ‘ology’s’.

We also like to find out how stuff works. A must for curious children.

History

The BEST Irish website for history is Dúchas and if your kids (or even you) would like to contribute to Irish history and help the archives then consider helping transcribe the community archives. There are tens of thousands of pages left to transcribe.

It’s also worth guiding your children through the Census archives, looking up your family tree and finding out what their ancestors were doing/living many years ago.

Co-Op Games

I realise this might not be popular but you will want to consider allowing your children to play cooperative games online using headphones with their friends. I’m not going to suggest any ones in particular but you need to bear in mind that the longer their isolation goes on the worse they will feel. This feeling of being connected with their friends can be partially helped by using online games.

Obviously organsing facetime/video calling with friends and family will also help but nothing compares with theme catching up with their pals for a short while every day.

If you have any ideas that I’ve not thought of feel free to comment below!

Note: This is specifically for free online resources. I’m aware that there are loads of paid websites that offer free trials etc. I just want to sign up for stuff for free. Goodness knows we all might be feeling the pinch in the weeks ahead.

Are you worrying about what food supplies you should have in the house? I have you covered.

06 Mar

Preparing for Isolation: Tips & A Shopping List

I’ll be honest here. I’ve been betwixt and between about writing this shopping list. I don’t want anybody to think I’m jumping on a bandwagon because I’m not. It’s no secret that I maintain about a month’s worth of supplies in the house (okay it’s more). My supply levels are not a ‘prepper’ thing or even a ‘money saving’ thing. It’s simply that it was not too long ago that I didn’t have the buffer of a full store cupboard; when times were tough financially and I had to seriously plan out every meal.

Being so open about my kitchen stores has led to a few requests from people on social media looking for an idea of where to start in case they do end up having to shut the front door to the world for at least a fortnight and go into isolation. I’m not suggesting you stockpile. Please don’t actually; please check and see what you have in your store cupboards before you go to the supermarket. Only buy what you need as otherwise you may end up with food waste and a rake of stuff that you might not need in the future.

Do be careful about calculating what you need to eat. It’s natural to want to comfort eat when you’re confined indoors, but your exercise levels will be far lower unless you have exercise equipment in the house that you’re going to use everyday.

I’ve deliberately included food here that is easy to prepare and cook just in case you do come down with the virus and aren’t feeling great. Cooking an epic slap up meal is the last thing you’re going to to want to do. If you generally eat more convenience food or would like to make your shop this way then go right ahead. I’ve not included alcohol; I figure most people have it in some form in their house if they really want it or will add it to the list.

After the (non exhaustive) shopping list below you’ll find other tips on how to survive if you’re not able to leave the house.

Fridge

  • Apples (in a paper bag)
  • Carrots (in a paper bag)
  • Broccoli (if plastic wrapped leave it that way it’ll keep for longer)
  • Peppers (in a paper bag)
  • Tomatoes (yes I know they shouldn’t be stored in the fridge normally but this will preserve them for longer)
  • Cheese (1 block, see also freezer)
  • Butter (1 block, see also freezer)
  • Yoghurt (see also freezer)
  • Milk (see also freezer)
  • Salad leaves (held loosely in a paper bag)
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Turnip
  • Parsnip
  • Cabbage
  • Beetroot

Freezer

  • Oven chips
  • Pizza
  • Milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt can all be frozen to make them last longer than 2 weeks so fit them into your freezer if you can. We go through about 6L of milk a week for reference
  • Meat/protein of choice – I’d suggest sausages, chicken breasts, minced beef, chops, all items that are easy to cook
  • Sweetcorn
  • Peas
  • Greenbeans
  • Sliced pans (just take out a slice or two at a time)

Store Cupboard

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Baked Beans
  • Passata
  • Tomato puree
  • Tinned chickpeas/blackbeans/beans of your choice
  • Potatoes (keep in a cool dry place in a paper bag away from sunlight)
  • Onions (store in the same manner as potatoes)
  • Porridge Oats
  • Wheat Biscuits
  • Sugar
  • Plain Flour
  • Eggs (about 2 dozen but as many as you think you’ll need, store them in the fridge to make them last longer if you have to)
  • Nuts
  • Crisps
  • Popcorn
  • Dried Fruit
  • Seeds
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Honey
  • Stock Cubes
  • Paprika
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cooking Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Chocolate
  • Jellies
  • Tea
  • Coffee

Other essential items

  • Soap
  • Toilet Paper
  • Petfood
  • Surface cleaning spray
  • Bleach
  • Paracetamol/Ibruprofen (in liquid form if you need it for children)
  • Dioralyte or Zero tabs for rehydrating when ill
  • Washing detergent
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo/Showergel etc

Other tips

2 weeks or more is an incredibly long time to be shut off from the world. There’s a lot to think about if you want to be prepared.

  • Make sure your prescriptions are up to date, filled, and that you have at least 2 weeks in stock in your house. Speak to your pharmacist if you are unsure about what you might need.
  • If you pay your utilities using a pay-as-you-go meter make sure your card is topped up and that you have access to a way to add credit if you need to without leaving the house.
  • It’s mad the things you don’t think about needing when it’s so convenient to nip out and grab them; do you have enough batteries/plasters/nappies/sanitary towels?
  • Get a free library card (if you haven’t already) and get yourself set up with BorrowBox on your smartphone and/or tablets. You can borrow ebooks and audiobooks from the comfort of your home for free. I guarantee you will go nuts if you watch TV all day.
  • Organise your friends and family to facetime/call you at intervals during the day. Think about playing games online with one another to keep in touch face-to-face (without touching faces that’s a no-no).
  • Have a routine for emptying the bins out to the wheely bins then sanitising as you go out and back.
  • Have a plan for deliveries coming to the door that you may have to sign for.
  • If you have kids board games will come in handy along with learning a new skill, maybe origami or knitting.

This might help you/it might not. If you have any suggestions or tips to add to this blogpost please comment below so that everybody can benefit. To those who asked me for this in blogpost format I hope that this answers your questions!

Are you worrying about keeping your kids occupied? Here’s my list of free online resources.

02 Mar

The Parenting Path Less Travelled

I’m more conscious about what I post online in the past few years. I’ve always included the boys in the conversation surrounding the blog. I have a blog and they understand that what I do is online. However, they are getting older and they are starting to make their own individual footprints in the online world so I’m trying to share what is going on without too much identifying information.

When you parent a neurotypical child your path through life is fairly predictable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not without its twists/turns/bumps/surprises, but society and the educational system is geared towards the normal child progressing to be a normal adult. Whatever normal is.

Neurotypical. That’s a word that’s part of a brand new lexicon that I’m rapidly becoming accustomed to.

Like every other parent who has found themselves on a slightly different path than they envisioned the last while has been difficult.

My child is still the same they have always been. Nothing has changed about them. Life will be similar but better for them now that we know what their differences are. I, however, carry around worries that they will come up against so many more obstacles than their peers and that life will be even more challenging for them because they are marked differently to everybody else.

Now we have to channel our efforts in this direction and steel ourselves for a prolonged journey into the land of dealing with various state and semi-state institutions. To plead, not for what he needs, but for what he’s entitled to. There’s a big line down the middle of his needs and entitlements. At times the chasm that the line has become is taking my breath away.

Life goes on; we are resilient and will adapt. It’s time to get used to the new normal.

I’ve had this post in my drafts for quite some time. A long time as it happens. For months when I went to post on the blog it became an obstacle to posting something new. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve when it comes to parenting. I’ve edited and posted this a million times in my mind. This is not a ‘poor me’ or a ‘poor them’ blog post. It is what it is; we are where we are.

04 Feb

Plant Based Mayo

This blog used to be a space where I would spill my heart out and share the ups and downs of life, budgeting, parenting, and feeding my family on a budget. Now I carry around stories that are not my own to tell and while it feels odd not to share them here, I won’t be. I do find myself checking what I share online so as to respect the privacy of their owners. The reality of these stories are that they shape my days at the moment and have partially been the reason why I’ve been so quiet on the blog.

If you follow me on social media you will know that I am working from home all the time now; a change that happened with the dawn of 2020. This is okay. I am needed here. It’s a change that I am doing my utmost to embrace but after a number of years away from the house at work it’s taking some getting used to.

The benefit to me being based in the house is more time to develop and test recipes, and hopefully, more blog posts and work on the website. I think if you tap my name above you’ll notice a fairly radical change to my design which I’m incredibly proud of. *whispers* I did it all myself!

This is a recipe for vegan mayo I worked on last week; served with a bowl of warm Irish vegetables and topped with toasted almonds and seeds it’s a wonderfully fresh and filling meal to have after a long day or to celebrate the best of in season vegetables.

It’s a doddle to make each ingredient sing in this plant based vegetable bowl with a plant based mayonnaise. It’s perfect hot or cold and will keep for leftovers the following day. 

Ingredients 

  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped 
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped 
  • 1 leek, chopped in matchsticks 
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup 
  • 100g sliced almonds 

For the mayo 

  • 1 teaspoon french mustard 
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed 
  • 75ml Irish Rapeseed Oil 
  • 2 tablespoons cooked chickpeas 
  • Salt & Pepper to taste 

Simmer the carrots in hot water for 10 minutes, then add the broccoli, allow to come to boiling again and strain immediately. Place the carrots, broccoli, and leek (on top of the vegetables) into a roasting dish, drizzle with maple syrup. Place under a hot grill until the leeks are charred. 

Put all the mayo ingredients into a blender and pulse until you have a smooth mayonnaise. Season to taste. 

Serve the vegetables hot in a bowl drizzled with the mayonnaise and sprinkled with the almonds. 

Tip: To make this bowl of nourishing veggies more filling add some crushed steamed baby potatoes or a few tablespoons of cooked freekeh.

We are fine at home. It’s a relief to be juggling ‘less’ around working outside of the home even if there are new juggles for us all to adjust to. Cxxx

06 Jan

Banana Milkshake Cake

Banana Milkshake CakeTake a banana malt milkshake with a side of cookies, then convert that into a cake. Read More

28 Aug

Lunchbox Tips

I can safely say that I’ve literally made hundreds of school lunches over the years and I’ve hundreds more to make.

If you’ve got a child starting school this year or if you are looking to freshen up your lunchboxes, here are my top, tried and tested, tips for packing a lunchbox: Read More

13 Jul

Adventures in Dublin With Kids

You would think, as the school term has ended for 9 weeks-ish, that I’d be sick to the back teeth of lunchboxes. I’m not! We are embracing the lunchbox every day of the week at the moment. I’m still baking my lunchbox muffins; packing refillable water bottles, and now I’m planning adventures.

 

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There’s a freedom in not being tied to any timetable other than our own. The lack of schedule, coupled with free child leapcards until the 28th of July, has fuelled our desire to explore Dublin on a budget as many days as we can. The idea is to live lightly and to bring whatever we need with us. As we used to say in the Irish Girl Guides; leave nothing behind but our thanks.

I have ‘splurged’ on one or two events that are paid but they have cost less than €25 for the three of us. Mainly, we are making the most of the wonderful facilities that our City has to offer. There are oodles of free museums, playgrounds, and events on offer if we scratch under the surface.

 

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Organising is ‘my thing’ plus (some of you already know this) my husband is a coach driver. I have a few surprising locations up my sleeve that you may not know about, or realise, you can visit on a budget.

If you’re thinking about what to do with your kids over the Summer you might like to follow along for some ideas and I always love suggestions because I’m constantly learning! If so you’ll find me on FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM and also on TWITTER

P.S. Disclosure has become a bit of a dreaded word for bloggers lately. I’ve resolved to stop telling you I have nothing to declare because I mainly never do. When I do have a relationship with a business/brand/thing I’ll be 100% upfront about it. Simply because it’s the regulations but also because it’s the sound thing to do.

11 Jul

Savoury Strawberry Salad – Ad

Did you know that a strawberry isn’t a true berry? You should store that little nugget of knowledge up for the next table quiz you’re at. True berries have their seeds held inside the fruit; a strawberry’s seeds are dotted along the outside with their characteristic little dot. This post has been sponsored by Bord Bia and if you’d like to get more information on how to celebrate strawberry season visit www.bordbia.ie/strawberries

My father in law sat down after dinner the other evening as he’d selected the best looking strawberry from the chip for dinner. With a little knife he gently lifted the seeds from outside the strawberry onto a piece of kitchen towel to dry. Every single seed will become a new strawberry plant with each delicate white flower on that plant resulting in a delicious strawberry. The life cycle continues. 

Normally associated with sweet dishes I like to eat strawberries in my salads. I hesitate to add too many ingredients into a salad with strawberries as they can sometimes be overpowered. The strawberries are a seasonal treat and I really want their natural flavour to sing! 

Savoury Strawberry Salad (serves 4) 

Ingredients 

  • 250g fresh strawberries, chopped 
  • 150g rocket 
  • 50g flaked almonds, toasted 

Dressing 

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • Fresh cracked black pepper 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 teaspoon honey 

Method 

Put the strawberries, rocket, and flaked almonds into a large bowl. 

Put the dressing ingredients into a clean jam jar, put the lid on top to seal and shake the jar well. 

Once all the dressing has been well combined, pour over the salad and serve immediately.  

This salad goes perfectly with a fresh goats cheese or poached salmon with lemon.  

10 Jul

Strawberry Pizza Pancakes – Ad

It’s a battle sometimes to get the kids to eat enough portions of fruit and vegetables in a day. I find myself having to resort to using every single Mam-trick in the book to convince them to add an extra portion into the day. 

They do however love strawberries and the beauty of this recipe is that the pancakes ‘look’ like a pizza but don’t have a savoury flavour at all.

This post has been sponsored by Bord Bia and if you’d like to get more information on how to celebrate strawberry season visit www.bordbia.ie/strawberries

My bigger problem though is making sure that the strawberries make it home from the shop without the kids snaffling them and munching them all on the way home. I’ve found this year that local strawberries need an extra day on the counter at room temperature to develop the perfect sweetness. I never keep my strawberries in the fridge because they are delicious when they aren’t chilled; the temperature they are when freshly picked is warm and that is the way they are meant to be eaten! 

Strawberry Pizza Pancakes (serves 5) 

Ingredients 

  • 250g (1 cup) plain flour 
  • 1 teaspoon bread soda/bicarbonate of soda 
  • 2 small-medium eggs (1 large egg should be fine either) 
  • 150ml buttermilk 
  • Optional 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil for frying/greasing the pan. 

Method 

Put the flour and bread soda into a large bowl and stir so that they’re combined. Make a well in the centre and crack in the 2 eggs, pour in the buttermilk (add the vanilla extract if using). Whisk until you have a batter. Don’t worry too much if you have small lumps, as these should disappear after the next stage. 

Put the oil in a heavy, shallow non-stick frying pan (see notes on frying pan below). Before you put the pan on the heat, spread the oil over the surface. I like to use a little bit of kitchen paper for this. Next, put it on a medium heat and allow it to come to temperature. This takes about 5 minutes or so. Once the pan is hot, give the batter a second vigorous whisk and you should see those lumps disappear (or at worst get smaller, they’ll be gone completely in the cooking process don’t worry). 

Using a ladle as a measure, pour 1 portion onto the frying pan. Once the bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the pancake, and the batter has changed colour from pale to slightly darker, flip the pancake using a non-stick spatula. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes, until the pancake turns golden on both sides. Lift and serve. 

If you want to wait for all the pancakes to be cooked before serving, pop them onto a heat-proof plate and cover with a bit of baking parchment/tin foil, then a heavy tea towel to stop them from getting cold. Lift the “insulation” everytime you cook another batch to add to the pile. 

Serve the pancakes with a generous spread of fresh yoghurt (whatever flavour you fancy), sliced strawberries, and some beautiful fresh mint which compliments the strawberries perfectly. There’s no need to sweeten this recipe; nature’s treats are sweet enough! 

02 Jul

Sugar Free Strawberry Ice Pops – Ad

As soon as the new strawberries start to appear in the supermarket it’s a sure sign that Summer has arrived. Even if the weather doesn’t quite agree, there’s nothing like the sweet scent of strawberries wafting around the kitchen. This post has been sponsored by Bord Bia and if you’d like to get more information on how to celebrate strawberry season visit www.bordbia.ie/strawberries

I just can’t resist buying strawberries every week for the duration of the season. I know I’m luckier than many with one of the best local fruit farms in the country only 5 minutes down the road to get my produce from. Regardless of whether you buy your strawberries from the farm or supermarket, when you buy this fruit in season you can be guaranteed it’s local, hasn’t clocked up food miles, and they’ve not been long picked either.

Gone are the days where we can go to the local farm and pick our own, but there’s nothing stopping me getting the delicious strawberries as fresh as I possibly can. Picked early in the morning, before the sun gets too high, the punnets are ripe for collection by 10am.

This is a great sugar free recipe for strawberry ice pops that is very handy for introducing new foods and flavours to picky eaters. It’s also handy to use up a glut of the most flavourful fruit.

Ingredients (makes 6 ice pops)

  • 200g fresh strawberries, chopped
  • ½ mango, peeled and chopped
  • 100ml fresh orange juice

Method

Blitz the ingredients in a food processor/blender until you have a fine pulp. Carefully pour into ice pop molds.

Freeze for 3 hours at the top of your freezer before eating, although ideally overnight.

To get the ice pops out of their molds, dip each into a mug of warm water for 20 seconds before turning upside down (handle facing to the ground) and pulling the mold off upwards. This prevents any breakages/leaving the ice pop behind in the mold!

Recipe notes: As there is no sugar or sweetener added to this recipe it’s suitable for all ages from weaning (after 6 months). I have a good few of these ice pops on standby in the freezer because they’re far cheaper and better value than buying from the ice cream van. They can also count as 1 of your 7 a day portions of fruit and vegetables!

21 Apr

Leftover Lamb Pasta

I admit, not everybody will have eaten lamb today; lamb is relatively expensive to bu!. I’d bet though that if you did buy lamb for your Easter Sunday roast, you really don’t want to throw away any of that precious meat. This leftover lamb pasta recipe is especially designed for the itty bitty pieces that don’t come away easily when carving. They are perfect shredded into the sauce, browned until caramelised and cling to the pasta in nutty morsels.

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