Monday, September 29, 2014

London Calling

At the start of the summer I was lucky enough to be able to see my all time favourite band The Libertines for the very first time in Hyde Park London. 

Myself and my sister managed to nab a couple of VIP tickets, the sun came out, the stars aligned, and it all lived perfectly up to my very high expectations - and then some.

So when they announced on stage that they would be playing Alexandra Palace in Sept I came straight home and, still on the post gig high, booked a couple of tickets for us for the next date.

Which was this weekend.

And so I escaped. For 48 blissful hours there was to be no cooking, cleaning, ferrying, mothering or working. 

On gig day we slipped in a 5 mile run in the morning and then lazily got ready for London Town. 

A hop, skip and a jump on the tube and we were strolling around the fantastic Borrough Market. You could easily spend an entire day pottering around the stalls laden with cheeses, wines, olive oils and meats.

But we had a date with a boozy late lunch so hotfooted it up the stairs to Roast which overlooks the market - perfect for watching cool Londoners and trendy tourists wandering below.

The meal was incredible. I took on an enormous slow-cooked roast pork belly and I'd like to say I won the battle, although I'm not sure my jeans would actually agree with that. 

After that, plus more wine, cheese, port and coffee it was time to waddle ourselves out of there and head on to the one and only Ally Pally. 

We arrived early, watched the support acts, briefly met some friends and then on they came.

Image credits: Gigwise

From the off it was a riot of heat and noise. Waves of both poured over us. The guys in the crowd shed their t-shirts and the girls fought their corner admirably. Mosh pits appeared and disappeared and we were carried along by the music for 24 perfectly executed songs. 

In the thick of it I looked around at us all - strangers with dripping bodies and smiling faces and realised - posh dinners are really, really lovely, but sometimes in life you've just got to go for it and get a little down and dirty to really have those marrow sucking moments. 

I'm sure Pete for one would agree. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Avoca dreaming

Oh Avoca. Is there anywhere else in the world that can make me feel worse about my domestic sluttery than you?

I wander around your gorgeousness and dream of a kitchen with a huge Aga, where mismatched antique dinner plates and bountiful floral arrangements would sit effortlessly side by side.

My living room would have coordinated cushions and luxurious blankets strewn across a big beautiful sofa, and all would be clean, stylish and perfect.

However....seeing as I am over 40 and still borrowing money from my mother it's a pretty safe bet this is never going to happen.

And so instead I look to see what little piece of beauty I can take home to buy into the dream - even on a small scale.

I consider the lovely ceramic door knobs for a moment. Using these I could upcycle the cheap plywood dresser we have and it would look wonderful - eclectic and artistic.

Or perhaps I could make my work desk a place of inspiration and nostalgia with these.

Or the bathroom - reorganised with beautiful bottles and old fashioned lotions and potions.

After much procrastinating and price tag checking I wander into the food area and wonder whether I should just settle on the big chocolate and pecan cake instead.

Time to go

Eventually, when the kids are well and truly over it all, I go for something cheaper than the phone, easier than the door knobs, and longer lasting than the cake. Something that not even I can go wrong with - two sweet little china cups that I can use for morning coffee. Not too expensive, not too grand, but enough to bring a little of the dream back with me.

When I get home I arrange them artfully beside the kettle and stand back to consider them for a moment.

But much to my dismay the kitchen does not miraculously change into a Country Homes scene, where a three-tiered Victoria sponge sits waiting on the big wooden table and my smiling children in hand-knitted jumpers sit quietly reading.

No. It all still looks exactly the same. The dishes haven't been done. The washing is still hanging over doors and chairs. The floor still hasn't been mopped in a week. And the kids are still slapping each other.

Except now there are two little beacons of disappointment staring back at me amid the chaos.

Pfft. Next time I'm just going to buy the bloody cake.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Coconut and Lavender Body Scrub

Ever wonder why we spend so much money on products 'pretending' to be all natural?

Coconut, lavender, organic, natural - these are all words that are promoted on expensive lotions and potions that, when you look at the actual ingredients, read more like an evil scientist's test kit.

So why not simplify things with a home-made, all natural and very inexpensive version?

Last week I wrote about the wonders of cooking with coconut - this week it's all about bringing it into your bathroom. 

This gorgeous Coconut and Lavender Body Scrub can be whipped up in minutes and costs a fraction of the price of a bought one. Plus you know exactly what is going into it. 

It makes a fantastic gift too. 

All you need is coconut oil, a few drops of lavender oil, salt and a pretty container.

The quality of the ingredients used is entirely up to you but I like to use Biona Coconut Oil and Maldon Sea Salt. Maldon gives a courser texture to the scrub, but normal sea salt will work too.

Soften the coconut oil - but don't melt it - if it's too warm it will dissolve the salt leaving you with no scrub to your scrub.

Mix together a ratio of 3/4 coconut oil to 1/4 salt, then add a few drops of lavender essential oil.

I bought these lovely spice jars very cheaply in Tesco - they're a good size and perfect for gifts.

There's nothing more to it than that. You can play around with it to get the consistency that you like, and of course add different essential oils for different moods. Citrus is great as an uplifting boost in the morning. 

So friends and family - you now know what you're getting for Christmas this year. (Yikes - did I really just mention the C word in September...?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

10 lessons I've learned from the recession

Let me start by saying this isn't an ode to the good ol' days of the recession - which I may add is still very much biting me in the ass - but sometimes it's good to look on the bright side, count the blessings, tot up the lessons, etc., etc. So with that in mind, here are 10 things I for one have learned from the recession.

1. Whether you have €400 or €4000 a month to spend, you will spend all of it. The 400-er will wonder how they got through the month and the 4000-er will wonder how they got through the money.

2. Road running is cheaper, healthier, and better for the soul than a gym. Plus you get to say "Meep! Meep!" in your head every time you pass someone out.

Meep, Meep!

3. Own brands are almost always more expensive brands repackaged (for example, Aldi's award-winning tea) or even just a better product (I’m looking at you, Lidl nappies) - so give the cheap stuff a go before committing to any particular brand.

4. But sometimes splashing out on the things you really love is worth it. Bombay Sapphire, anyone?

bombay sapphire g&t

5. Which brings us to the old and familiar adage – "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves." That phrase has been around all this time for a reason, people.

6. As has "One person’s trash is another person’s treasure", so make like Eminem and start clearing out your closet. With local buy-and-sell FB groups popping up all over the country, there’s no better time to get rid of that foot spa you bought in the January sales five years ago.

7. Tesco school shoes are just as good as Clarks. For three kids, that's a bill of about €45 versus €150. Now think of all the Bombay Sapphire that could buy.

small red car in car park of nicer ones
Extreme edginess. I actually drove this car. 
8. Sometimes poor can be cool. I have a friend who is broke, but her daughter attends a very posh private school due to someone else paying the fees. She always felt embarrassed parking her beat-up Toyota Corolla amid all the black shiny SUVs, until one of the other mothers confided to her that they all thought she was being "edgy" with her car choice. After that, she started blasting Pulp's "Common People" from the clapped-out stereo and has never looked back.

9. Don’t bother spending your hard-earned cash on expensive kids' clothes. Kids look cute in a paper bag, so choose Primark over Prada every time.

10. The play park is just as much fun as the soft play centre. Plus there are less germs, less noise, and it’s free. Kids don’t agree? Bribe them with a cheap ice cream and pocket the rest of the savings.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How to find the perfect running shoe for you

Looking to buy a new pair of runners? What's the first thing you look at?




To find the perfect running shoe for you you may need to look a bit deeper than that.

I was WELL overdue a new pair of trainers when I stepped into Amphibian King last week - a store that bills themselves as 'technical running shoe specialists'.

It's recommended that you update your running shoes every 300 - 400 miles which may sound like a lot, but if you're running 6 miles a couple of times a week, then in about 6 or 7 months you should be hitting that mark.

I'm ashamed to say it was a LOT more than that for my poor old Asics trainers.

These guys had seen me through my first 5k, multiple 10k races, a half marathon, a Hell and Back adventure race, two triathlons and lots and lots of training. Turns out they were in fact 4.5 years old - ancient in trainer terms.

They may have felt like old friends on my feet, but I knew they weren't doing my back any favours so they had to be retired.

And so the process of choosing new ones began.

I went into the store with the intention of buying the updated version of the same shoe, but things didn't quite turn out that way.

Amphibian King is very different to a normal sports shop where you browse the shoes on offer, pick your favourite one within your price range, try on your size and then walk happily out. They talk to you about how far you run, what surface you run on, if you have any ongoing injuries, what your goals are. Then they move on to your personal analysis to see what running shoe best fits your style of running.

First up - a natural bare foot gait analysis. Initially your arch is examined, followed by a short run down a purpose built track so that your running style can be analysed. By seeing what way your foot lands they are able to then recommend the best running shoe for you.

My lovely sales person Oona was extremely patient, explaining each part of the process as we went along. Finding the perfect running shoe can take time so it's best to book in if you can. I spent about 45 minutes from start to finish but had her full attention that entire time.

Oona checks out my moves

Based on her analysis of my needs and running style, Oona brought out three different trainers for me to try. It's not until you try on a number of different pairs that you realise how different each pair can actually feel.

First up was these bad boys from Brooks.

Brooks Ghost 7

As soon as I put these on I thought that was it. So comfortable, they just felt 'right'

With each pair of trainers you are asked to run on the track whilst they film you again to make sure the shoes are suitable.

Although I would happily have walked out of the shop there and then we moved on to the next pair - On Running Cloudrunner. These were the ones that Oona herself wore and loved - and since she was doing an Ironman at the end of the month I reckoned she probably knew a thing or two about it.

However - and this is where personal fitting comes in - I hated them. They didn't feel right on my foot at all and when I tried running in them it felt flat, hard and uncomfortable.

So on to the next pair - Asics Cumulus 16.

These ones felt nice but my heel didn't feel as snugly as the first ones so I discounted them pretty quickly too. Sorry Asics, Turns out I am a fickle friend.

And then the New Balance ones came out just to throw me off guard.

Like the first pair they felt instantly comfortable and running in them felt extremely natural.

Now the only problem was which pair to choose.

To help me decide Oona suggested that I put on one of each and go outside for a short run to see which felt best. A simple test that made the decision easy.

It turns out that the perfect running shoe for me is.....

New Balance Moyen.

I love them and they love me. Let's hope it's a partnership that works well for the next 400 odd miles.

Personal MOT required (and the case of the missing make up)

Do you ever find that you're so busy keeping on top of life that a lot of the personal little things slide?

When the kids were off school for the summer holidays each day was a delicate balance of keeping them entertained during one half of the day so that they would leave me alone to work for the other half.

Then the back to school mayhem ensued with books, uniforms, lunch boxes and bags to be bought, and clubs and teams to be signed up to and paid for.

But now that the routine is settling a bit I have time to stop and take stock, and I realise that I desperately need to book myself in for a full MOT.

I can't remember the last time I made it to a hairdresser, and as for 'maintenance' in the waxing department - lets just say I'm not exactly rushing to put my swimsuit on any time soon.

As the weather starts to turn colder getting dressed in the morning is taking longer and longer. Summer dresses are no longer possible and jumpers and cardis are few and far between. Some new season clothes are most definitely required.

On top of all this I also am running out of every lotion and potion in my collection at exactly the same time. Last week I dropped my beloved Nars blusher on the bathroom floor and watched my son stand on the broken bits sending the tiles a lovely orgasmic pink. And then the icing on the cake - someone poured my Benefit High Beam down the toilet.

Naturally I freaked out. I called the three of them into the tiny bathroom and shut the door. 'No one leaves this room until you tell me who did it' I seethed.

'It wasn't me' said number 1 child so we all looked at number 2.

'Well it wasn't me!' said number 2 child, so we all looked at number 3.

'It wasn't me either!' said number 3 child affronted at the mere thought of it. 'And if it was I can't remember doing it'.

So my MOT list is getting ever longer and the bank balance ever shorter. I think I may just skip it all and go straight for the alcohol....

Monday, September 8, 2014

Easy Coconut Macaroons

My new love of all things coconut shows no signs of abating.

Over the past few months I've attempting to convert friends and family to the brilliance of coconut oil, but they have stopped listening to my ramblings now and generally run in the opposite direction if they see me wielding a pot of it, so I'm afraid you're stuck with me instead.

I've been using coconut oil for cooking and as a body moisturiser for some time now, and have recently added coconut water to my weekly shopping list for breakfast smoothies and post workout drinks, but things have stepped up a bit since receiving Pat Crocker's new book - Coconut 24/7.

The book is packed with facts and information about each different product of the coconut - from the milk to the pulp to the oil and much more. Each It's a great way to build up knowledge of which form is good for what, and why.

It also contains heaps of recipes for treats, meals, drinks, and a small section on home-made bathroom products like hair conditioner, hand cream and face masks.

I started off small and adapted the very simple recipe for Coconut Macaroons. These are so easy I made them with my 5 year old - and he did most of the making.

The end product is delicious, and they've been going down a storm in the kids school lunch boxes.

Here's how to make them.


2 large egg whites
1/2 cup coconut sugar crystals (I used 1.5 cups of caster sugar as I didn't have the sugar crystals)
2 cups grated coconut

Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the grated coconut and mix again.

Use a dessert spoon or wet egg cup to make 'mounds' on the parchment paper. Make sure they aren't too close together as the mixture will spread slightly in the oven.

Bake for 15-20 mins until light golden brown.

Drizzle some melted chocolate over the top and try to wait for it to harden before devouring the sweet, golden, chewy delights.

Next week I'll be moving from the kitchen to the bathroom and making a gorgeous coconut body scrub. Perfect for gifts!

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Coconut 24/7 by Harper Collins. 

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