26 Jan

Monitoring Your Child’s Internet Access

I originally wrote this piece in 2013 and unfortunately I’m reviewing it today in the light of discussion about children’s internet access and online safety today. Read More

15 Oct

Preparing For A Power Cut

Storm Ophelia is on the way tomorrow, and some areas of Ireland are already in red alert, others are in orange alert. We know for sure now that there will be some disruption and this means that there’s a distinct possibility the electricity could be cut off. Ever since the power went one Christmas Day when I was growing up, I’ve compiled a contingency plan so that I always have particular supplies in the house, just in case.  This can apply in times of bad weather, snow or just when there are supply problems so it’s a good idea to prepare now – you never know when these tips will come in handy!

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12 Oct

How Does She Do It?

It’s a question I’m often asked.

I try to explain my weekly work schedule in the home and outside of the home and I see people’s eyes glaze over. In truth, the writing part of my life is not a hardship. I could sit at a computer and write my heart out. Some days I have to restrain myself from writing too much and ignoring all the other tasks put on pause while I write something that’s on my mind. Read More

14 Sep

Mental Load – Food For Thought

There’s a point in a recent documentary on RTÉ1, called Ireland’s Health Divide, where Dr Eva Orsmond can’t get her head around a woman from Limerick buying so much processed food. The woman says that she doesn’t buy Coke (Cola) anymore because it’s worse than the other bottles of fizzy drinks on the countertop in front of her. Then Dr Eva looks incredulously at the woman not understanding how she came to that assumption. Perhaps even with more than a little judgement. Read More

16 Aug

Leaving Cert Results Day

Being ancient (according to my children) means that I remember this day in crystal moments, not as a full day. Driving my mother mad by not collecting my results until later on in the day. Crying bitter tears as I missed my number one choice on the CAO by 5 points. Going to another school with friends to get their results. Standing in a local pub with a drink in my hand that evening not knowing how to celebrate as I felt like I’d failed. Read More

05 Aug

Learning From A Two Week Digital Detox

Originally published in October 2015.

Sure it’s only two weeks I said to myself as I mailed my essential contacts to let them know that I wouldn’t be available for a fortnight. I set up a blogpost so that readers would know what I was up to. Then I deleted social media applications from my smart phone. Yes. I deleted them so that I wouldn’t be tempted to use them. I turned off every single notification I could, after I’d made sure to take a note of all-important passwords. Yep I was ready to become disconnected.

In August 2014 I did something similar, but this time it was for a whole fortnight. It wasn’t just me though, my husband had agreed to go on a digital detox with me. When I think about it we are constantly connected to the online world. When I’m in the kitchen working I have podcasts running in the background, when I’m out and about I have the phone with me in case somebody needs to contact me and it’s irresistible not to check the phone on a busy day, particularly when I spend so much of my day outdoors. In the evening we sit down for a while to watch TV and often end up dual-browsing/observing what’s on the telly without actually taking it in. Don’t think that this is unusual, in my experience it’s a fairly normal description of an average household.

I’ve had enough with this always-on lifestyle though. It bugs me when I don’t feel present, parenting mindfully and being in the moment means that I shouldn’t have a blinking phone or camera in my hand to document it or discuss it online. Watching TV is fun with Twitter open on the phone but it’s intrusive and resting at night was becoming more difficult as the phone was in my hand until I went to bed and again first thing in the morning. Read More

19 Jul

Opinion: Food Headlines Worth Banning

Let’s ban the urgency of headlines when talking about food when talking about food

OMG if you read one thing about food today, read this, quick. Before everybody else reads it.

Does this sound familiar to you?

It certainly does to me, and I’m tired of it.

A quick trawl through articles published in Ireland by bloggers, online magazines, and newspapers in the past month reveal the following headline samples: Read More

31 May

Crying Over Onions

It was the onions. The blasted onions. Everything up until I started watering the onions was manageable. I had kept my emotions relatively in check. Then as I started to water the onions the memories flooded back and I started to cry.

There was a glass of water on the table at tea time in the Summer. We’d invariably have fresh salad for tea. Home cooked ham, tomatoes, lettuce, a slice of homemade brown soda bread, but not cucumbers. Grandad didn’t particularly like cucumbers. In the glass on the table would be fresh baby onions or giant scallions, peeled but still in one piece. Eye-wateringly peppery in taste. Grandad used to eat them with relish, sometimes dipping them into a spoon of mayonnaise, but they were always part of the tea time menu.

He grew them in the back garden, in a sunny area beside the patio. The garden was on a slope and the patio was bounded by little walls which he built himself with love and pride. When we were small he used to grab an old piece of gutter from the shed, lean it on the patio walls, and we’d have dinky car races down the self-made chutes. Always being mindful of the beautiful flowers (and onions) that were growing in his wonderful garden.

People always ask me where I got my love of growing food from. Grandad was a huge influence on me. He did get to visit the allotment once; he pronounced it lovely. This was high praise indeed. I know that he loved the pork from the pigs that we rear, and said that it was how pork used to taste when he was growing up. That made me very happy to hear it.

Last night on the way home from his funeral, I realised that we had neglected to water at the allotment, so in our finery we traipsed up the path and turned on the tap. I had busied myself the previous few days by helping out with the arrangements. When I got the allotment there was no more opportunities to hide from the reality that he was gone; there was just me and those darn onions.

James Pearse Shortall, 1916-2017, aged 100, lived life to the full, and we have celebrated him over the past few days. I’ll be reminded of him everytime I step onto the plot.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Cxxx

05 Apr

Tuesday 19th July, 2011 – Tracker Mortgage Update

I’m crying.

Big fat dirty tears of despair are running down my face. It’s the kind of ugly cry that I never want to be seen in public, yet here I am. Standing in the Community Welfare Office with my husband, trying to figure out how we will manage while he’s temporarily laid off over the Summer months. The Welfare Officer shifts in her seat, embarrassed. I turn and push the buggy away from the window that separates (protects) the staff from the public. Eyes sympathetically follow me as I wrestle a tissue out of my pocket, push the buggy with our 2 year old with one hand and blow. My pregnant bump on show, my hair askew, and tears streaming down my face.

Himself has turned a deep shade of cerise, bordering on purple. We had no choice but to look for help and this feels like a betrayal of everything he believes in. He wants to provide for us, but can’t. Read More

23 Mar

Homegrown Food 2017

Every evening when I get back from the allotment I look at my hands. They’re not as soft as they used to be, yet the children still say my touch is just as light as when they themselves were pumpkin-sized. They’re not the prettiest hands you’ll see and after a long day working at the plot there will always be a little lingering dirt even after the third soak. These are the hands that nourish my family, I grow food, and then cook it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way

This is my seventh year of growing my own food on an allotment but I grew some food at home for the year before that. Making the move to an allotment wasn’t a difficult choice to make; growing your own food is made so much easier when you have a wealth of advisors, space, and comaradery to draw upon. Read More

05 Jan

What Happens From Here?

I’m starting 2017 in a state of flux because so much is up in the air. What happens from here? How will we manage our mortgage/bills and what are my plans for the future?

It’s a question I’ve been asked quite a bit over the past few weeks or so, since we finally got our letter and confirmation from Ulster Bank that we were indeed on the wrong interest rate for about the last 6+ years. We have been wrongly charged, we know that we ended up in arrears, needlessly for a substantial part of them. Read More

22 Dec

The Solstice Brought Hope

Wednesday morning, long, LONG, before the dawn, I tweeted a message about the days getting longer and that the Solstice brought hope. I’ve not been sleeping very well, the stress of everything has been taking its toll. Later on that day as I waited for the letterbox to click, just as I have done everyday since the CEO of Ulster Bank made that promise at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, I felt that hope wane.

The letterbox didn’t click at the usual time and the day got longer. Still no sign of the postman. I sent out a message to the neighbours asking had the postman been yet. Yes, he had, but with nothing for me. Read More

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