Journaling – May 2017

As a teenager, I was definitely a ‘New Year’ journal keeper! Every Christmas I was given a new diary for the upcoming year, and I started afresh every January 1st with my daily thoughts. Usually I had given up entirely within a few weeks or months, only for the pattern to re-emerge the following year.


At Christmas 2015 I was struggling. One of my closest friends bought me a beautiful book ‘for my thoughts’ and so I began anew.


My journal became the place where I made note of the good things in my life, memories to hold on to and moments that I could look back on when life felt dark. My journal became my friend in times of need and a safe place full of positive affirmations, with handwritten notes and cards from my family slotted between the pages. I don’t journal every day or even every week but as things have improved I have still taken time to write down the things that are important to me.


I created my blog (in January 2013) as another outlet for me to record the thoughts and moments that I want to share. I am not great at sharing my deepest thoughts with others but it has become a place for me to share part my own journey.


There are different ways to ‘journal’, it is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of thing. I was flicking through the March issue of Tesco magazine (my daughter always picks me up a free copy at the checkout) .

I spotted an article about ” The Bullet Diary”, this is my kind of diary!


I also recently received an email post from Kelly Oribine. Kelly has been blogging about her own struggles recently and this post really resonated with me on so many levels. Her crochet blanket project is a way to turn her struggles into a piece of reflective art. It is goal-centred and she has committed to crocheting 1 row every day, regardless of how she feels.  This might not seem like a lot but to someone who is struggling, committing to doing something every day for a year is enormous. It will be a useful object in her home and a reminder of the good and the bad, I hope that as the project progresses, she sees more bright colours than dark ones.

Some people use their social media pages as a kind of ‘journal’ too, how often do you see a ‘Facebook Memory’ popping up on your newsfeed?

What are your thoughts on Journaling?


Grow Your Own – April 2017 (3)

Last year was our first year of poly-tunnel growing. Due to a combination of lack of confidence and wanting to get a head start on growing a few crops I bought some ‘starter plants’ from a local DIY store to give us a head-start while I waited to see if the seeds I had planted were going to actually grow!


I bought a 6 pack of tomatoes as starter plants. We also planted 4 varieties from seed and virtually every seed germinated so I ended up donating a lot of tomato plants to family & friends. I had 2 problems last year, the first was overcrowding as I planted the 6 starter plants in the same raised bed – I have never seen such big tomato plants – it made it really difficult to actually see and harvest all the delicious tomatoes. The second issue was that I think 10 varieties was a bit much, they all tasted great but I ended up making a lot of tomato soup (I will share my easy recipe once I have some tomatoes to cook).


Peppers were the other starter plant I bought last year. Initially I planted the 4 plants in the same raised bed, inter-planted with shallots and I got a few OK-sized peppers. One of the plants appeared to be dying so it ended up on the compost pile, after this the other 3 seemed to be ‘coming back’ so I relocated them to another bed (on their own) and successfully grew peppers well into autumn. This year I am trying to grow them from seed, I am dedicating a raised bed only for peppers and I will make sure to pick out some of the flowers to concentrate the growth into fewer, larger fruits.


I have always grown courgettes successfully, although I am the only person in our family who likes to eat them. I enjoy grilling the smaller ones whole on the barbecue and using the larger ones in tomato-based sauces and in soup. I have planted both green and yellow courgettes this year (3 seeds of each) and hope to have around 4 plants in the raised bed, which will be more than sufficient for us.


Peas are something that I have never grown before. I have picked 2 varieties – mangetout & sugar snap which we all enjoy and which I plan on planting regularly throughout the season.

I was given 2 pieces of advice some years ago, which has always stuck with me – “grow what you eat” and “if you are short on space then grow crops which are expensive to buy” and both these varieties are expensive as they are flown halfway across the world!


My final sowings on Sunday were herbs, which again, are expensive to buy. I have chosen my 3 most used herbs – Basil, Coriander & Chives, both for my kitchen and the polytunnel. I have 3 ceramic pots, which I use for herbs on my breakfast bar and I have always found the pots in which shop-bought herbs are sold are too big for these, so I have made sure that these ones fit properly. I have also sown a larger pot with Basil, as I planted a shop bought pot in the polytunnel with my salad leaves last summer and it grew fantastically well for months as it was able to put down deeper roots, so I plan to plant basil among the salad this year as well.


My 2 packs of ‘Charlotte’ seed potatoes all ‘chitted’ well and I have planted them in 3 tubs. I prefer to grow potatoes in tubs as it is easier to tip them out rather than dig – less stressful on my back and less damage to the lovely potatoes.


I started by washing out my deep tubs and lining the base with some newspaper to prevent the compost from falling through the drainage holes at the bottom.


I then added a couple of inches of Miracle-Gro compost, especially formulated for root vegetables. The chitted potatoes were placed on top, making sure the shoots are pointing upwards. I then added about 8 inches of compost on top of the potatoes.


For now I am keeping the pots in the poly-tunnel to boost early growth and protect the young shoots against any frost as the evenings are still chilly.


Another bonus was my discovery that this year’s seed potatoes cost less than last year, it wasn’t much but it doesn’t happen often these days so it made me smile.


I am still waiting on the Sweet Potato tubers, which I have been assured will be with me by the end of June!


Watch this space!





April is here and it has brought the sun with it, but it is breezy so temperatures are still cool, unless you happen to be in our poly-tunnel, which is positively tropical!


I spent several hours pottering around on Sunday, I began by gently weeding around my strawberry plants which are producing lots of flowers and are starting to show signs of fruit. I then buried some small pots in the centre of my ready-planted raised beds and filled them with Guinness – being in Ireland the slugs love the stuff! I find it far more effective than beer in drawing the slugs in & at least they die happy!


The garlic & shallots are coming on brilliantly with lots of bright green shoots appearing. I added a small grouping of spring onions, which I had tossed in the top of my compost pile at the end of last year. They had started to take root among the composting stuff so I decided to give them another chance and they will ‘fill the gap’ until this year’s spring onions are ready to eat.


I have thinned out the beetroot shoots to ensure there is only 1 plant growing in each space, they grow slowly and last year the single shoots produced far better beets than the ones which I allowed to grow in pairs. The other half of this bed is currently my ‘free zone’ which has 2 leftover red onions, a celery which I re-rooted in water after using the rest for soup, a red cabbage plant which my daughter was given & 3 rooted lettuce which I bought in the supermarket & planted out after using some of the leaves for a salad – these are now more than twice their original size!


There is a saying here that the month of March “comes in like a lion and out like a lamb”, which in my 42 years experience just sums up this month perfectly.


I am soooo over winter, it has been the longest, most miserable winter ever, between our house kicking us repeatedly in the behind, the weather (cold, rainy & dismal), the dark evenings and lack of sunshine and my general daily struggles with depression which at times have left me feeling exhausted.


The past few weeks however I have felt a change, both in the weather and, more importantly, within myself. The beginning of March brought the first daffodils in our garden, which were one of the first things we planted after we moved here, to me their trumpets herald a new season beginning. I am awakening to birdsong most mornings, the days are getting longer and we have had stretches of sunshine some days, which has allowed me to throw open the windows and let the fresh spring air into our home.

I have also started to straighten out our poly tunnel and planted out the first batch of strawberry plants, 60 of which were grown from last year’s runners! These new plants are already starting to flower & I am amazed that my £12 investment last year (in 12 strawberry plants) has multiplied so well that they now need 5 of my box-beds to accommodate them all.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that 11 of the 12 ‘sprouted’ garlic cloves I planted along the edges of one of my raised box-beds at the end of last summer have started to grow. I was convinced they had ‘died off’ but I gently weeded around them and planted the rest of the box with 18 shallot sets, which were reserved from our harvest last year. Free strawberries, garlic & shallots for our house this year!


I also have a great selection of seeds leftover from last year and I have planted a bed with beetroot which grows slowly but was much appreciated last year – delicious roasted & drizzled with balsamic vinegar).  I have decided not to bother growing cucumbers or radishes this year as nobody in our house is at all fussed about them so these crops were a waste of space. Our tomato plants last year were enormous and yielded kilo upon kilo of delicious fruit, 10 varieties was probably a few too many though.  I will need to buy some cherry tomato seeds this year as I don’t appear to have any left.


The only other purchases so far are seed potatoes, I have again gone for Charlotte potatoes, I grew these last year in large pots, which worked fantastically well, they are ‘chitting’ away merrily in my utility room and should be ready for planting in another week or so. I have also ordered some Sweet Potato tubers which should be here in about 12 weeks time – I can’t wait to try these out as we are big fans of sweet potatoes in our house!


I probably need a few more Sundays to finish setting up the extra beds needed for this year’s crops & also need to start planting out my seed crops – tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, courgettes, salad stuff & herbs.


Watch this space!

Living Intentionally 2014 – February



Feburary’s challenge is NO ALCOHOL for 28 days! I wouldn’t describe myself in any way as a heavy drinker but I do enjoy a glass of wine or two, 4-5 nights per week.


If I am to be honest, the last time I went without alcohol for any length of time I was pregnant/breastfeeding, I have slipped into a ‘habit’ of using wine to wind down after a long day – I am not good at sitting & relaxing so having a glass of wine seems to help, but sometimes I don’t even enjoy the wine.


Guidelines vary for the amount of alcohol it is safe to consume – Advice on the maximum units of alcohol that should be consumed was introduced in 1987 – 21 units in a week for men and 14 for women.

In 1995, the advice was changed to recommend that men did not regularly drink more than three to four units per day. The figures were two to three units for women. It also says that after heavy drinking people should leave 48 hours for the body to recover.


It is sometimes difficult to gauge or calculate how many units are actually in that single glass of wine, this useful guide from the BBC may be of help:


Week 1


The night before my challenge started, we had some wine, to be frank I hadn’t had a drink in 4-5 days as I had been ill but my husband suggested it might be a good idea to open a bottle as I was going to deprive myself for a month. We didn’t even finish the bottle & had a very large glass of cabernet sauvignon sitting in our fridge for several days until I added it to a pot of Bolognese sauce!


The week started, surprisingly, with a rare night out with my lovely in-laws. I got home from work, ran myself a lovely relaxing bath before getting ready to go out, my 11 year old daughter offered to bring me my book & a glass of wine so I explained the principle of my month’s challenge – she offered to bring me a wine glass of ginger ale instead. I got around my self-imposed ban by being designated driver and drank soft drinks out of a wine glass when everyone came back to ours – nobody noticed.


Week 2


This is surprisingly easy, I have replaced wine with soft drinks and have discovered that sitting with a wine glass of lemonade has a similar relaxing effect to sitting with a glass of the real thing – perhaps it is the choice of drinking vessel! I am feeling slightly smug this week (please read as ‘very possibly annoying to be around’). After the 1st night (see above night out with in-laws). my lovely, supportive husband has joined me in my monthly challenge. An added bonus is that my cellulite has gone, my husband has remarked that my eyes are less puffy, my digestion has greatly improved & I am sleeping like a baby.


Week 3


I have reached the ‘it’s not funny’ stage. I have had 3 very stressful days this week & have worked 13 days straight without a day off. I woke on Thursday feeling like I had a hangover – 20 days without alcohol – one of my colleagues suggested that my body was probably detoxing from that lack of caffeine & alcohol, I felt like crap all day & slept for almost 10 hours. I am drinking sparking elderflower cordial from my wineglass & dreaming of beer – I don’t even like beer!


Week 4


I am now counting the days, seeing wine offers everywhere & planning to buy a very nice bottle of Champagne to celebrate the end of my month. I am however thrilled that my cellulite is gone & I am more comfortable in my clothes as my digestion has greatly improved & my stomach is less bloated.


What have I learned so far –


I have learned a lot from my 2 challenges so far, the inspiration for my challenges came from Jen Hatmaker, whose book 7

I read last summer whilst travelling around Yorkshire with my family in a camper van for a week. Jen describes 7 as “an experimental mutiny against excess”, targeting 7 areas of her life – clothes, spending, waste, food, stress, media & possessions – over 7 months.   As an aspiring minimalist I am truly amazed at the personal journey Jen undertook, whilst I don’t profess to share all her views I was truly inspired to start my own journey – 12 challenges over 12 months. Whilst I don’t imagine that I will only wear 7 items of clothing or eat just 7 foods for an entire month, I will seek to challenge certain areas in my life that I feel need improvement – it is my own personal journey.

Living Intentionally 2014

Those of you who know me well will know that I don’t DO New Years Resolutions, it is a long standing joke that every year I give up Gin and Cigarettes – safe in the notion that I don’t smoke & don’t drink gin.

Last year (2013) I made a decision to try to live more intentionally & start a journey towards minimalism, simplify my life & perhaps make a few discoveries about myself along the way.

I stopped buying bin liners (trash bags) and started re-using my stash of plastic disposable carrier bags instead, this took me almost 6 months!  I purged my wardrobe, shoes, handbags & accessories.  I set up a charity book exchange in work to clear out the books I would never read or never need again.  As a family we worked through every bedroom, sorting wardrobes and drawers, donating the excess to charity or friends – bags & boxes galore left our house.  I have set up a one in – at least one out policy, which means that every purchase is made intentionally, with the knowledge that as each item is paid for then at least one (or six) items will have to go.


It is working, but we still have too much stuff and it feels too slow.


This year (2014) I decided to continue my journey, by setting monthly goals towards a more simplified life.


In January I decided to tackle my ‘coffee addiction’, limiting myself to just one coffee every day.  For some this would seem easy but for someone with a 4-5 cup of good, strong coffee / day habit it was a bit of a challenge.  I was pleasantly surprised that after the first few days I wasn’t even drinking my first-thing-in-the-morning cup, instead waiting until late morning or early afternoon – my family have become accustomed over the years with not even attempting conversation with me until I have had at least 1 cup.

After 3 weeks I discovered that my 6 year, 2 week/month hormonal breast pain was gone, my afternoon energy slumps had all but disappeared and my bones and joints were less sore in the morning!

By the end of the month I was perhaps drinking ½ – ¾ of my daily cup & the rest was going cold and I have found a new respect for the vast array of herbal teas on the market.


Month 1 Challenge completed I have since enjoyed a second cup on a couple of occasions and even had one glass of Coke with my dinner whilst dining out last weekend but I am definitely not going back.


February’s challenge has begun – No Alcohol for 1 Month!

21 Things a Mother Should Tell Her Son


1. Play a sport. It will teach you how to win honourably, lose gracefully, respect authority, work with others, manage your time and stay out of trouble. And maybe even throw or catch.
2. You will set the tone for the sexual relationship, so don’t take something away from her that you can’t give back.

3. Use careful aim when you pee. Somebody’s got to clean that up, you know.4. Save money when you’re young because you’re going to need it someday.5. Allow me to introduce you to the dishwasher, oven, washing machine, iron, vacuum, mop and broom. Now please go use them.

6. Always treat people with the respect you wish to be treated with.

7. Don’t ever be a bully and don’t ever start a fight, but if some idiot clocks you, please defend yourself.

8. Your knowledge and education is something that nobody can take away from you.

9. Treat women kindly. Forever is a long time to live alone and it’s even longer to live with somebody who hates your guts.

10. Take pride in your appearance.

11. Be strong and tender at the same time.

12. A woman can do everything that you can do.  This includes her having a successful career and you changing diapers at 3 A.M. Mutual respect is the key to a good relationship.

13. “Yes ma’am” and “yes sir” still go a long way.

14. The reason that they’re called “private parts” is because they’re “private”. Please do not scratch them in public.

15. Peer pressure is a scary thing. Be a good leader and others will follow.

16. Bringing her flowers for no reason is always a good idea.

17. It is better to be kind than to be right.

18. A sense of humor goes a long way in the healing process.

19. Please choose your spouse wisely.  My daughter-in-law will be the gatekeeper for me spending time with you and my grandchildren.

20. Remember to call your mother because I might be missing you.

21. Your Mother will always love you, no matter what – don’t be afraid to express your feelings!

A friend posted a link from CLEVAMAMA on Facebook today for 20 Things – I added my own 21st.  I think it’s something that all mothers of little boys should read – especially point 5!

Pea & Ham Soup

This soup is my husband’s favourite, it can be served chunky to show off the beautiful colours or blitzed to provide a thick, smooth soup.  It’s one of those recipes that makes life easy, as I can pull together a fresh batch in less than 30 minutes as long as I have some chopped ham in the freezer (I freeze leftover ham in pre-weighed packs for use in soups & pies).

INGREDIENTS – serves 4-6

1 large Onion – chopped

8 medium sized Potatoes – peeled & chopped

1 tablespoon sized knob of Butter

250 – 300g Cooked Ham

Frozen Peas

Ham or vegetable stock – homemade or shop bought

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Melt butter in heavy based pot, sweat off onions for a couple of minutes before adding chopped potatoes, cook for a couple of minutes over a low heat.  Add chopped ham & stock (enough to cover ingredients) & simmer until potatoes are soft.  Add frozen peas (I do this by eye rather than by weight) add extra stock if required & season to taste – serve as soon as peas are heated through!