Glanteenassig Woods, Co. Kerry – A Hidden Gem.

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This post is going to mainly let the pictures do the talking, because they can articulate the magic much better than my loquacious ramblings. Really, I just want to alert you to the fact that on the meandering road between Tralee and Dingle, close to the village of Castlegregory, there hides a place that looks like this. A place where woodland, lakes and mountains collide and we are merely guests of nature for the duration of our visit. If sprites, elves and faeries exist (and we all know they do) surely they choose to live here. So keep your eyes peeled for some of “the little folk” of Irish mythology as you walk through some of this beautiful country’s most majestic scenery. And remember – if you don’t believe in them, you can never see them!!!!

 

 

The amazing thing about Glanteenassig Wood (pronounced locally as Glown – Ten – Ass – Ig) is despite being well maintained and accessible to all fitness levels, it remains largely undiscovered. Tourists hurtling from the Ring of Kerry or Killarney en route to Slea Head or the town of Dingle often miss this hidden gem completely. And where tourists with jam packed itineraries can be forgiven, I have no idea what excuse I can offer for not having visited in over a decade. I mean just take a look…..

 

 

The wood is signposted from the main road, but it is a bit of an uphill drive (maybe about 5km) from the village of Aughacashla where you turn left. As you climb, houses gradually give way to grazing land for mountain sheep and you feel yourself leaving reality behind. It’s down the hill somewhere with your wifi connection and mobile phone reception.

Then suddenly you stop and take it in – and it’s majestic. The clouds sit on the rocky hill top as waterfalls and streams make their way down glacial rock face to the tranquil lakes below. The shelter of the trees and the exposure of the rocks seem in stark contrast yet in perfect harmony. It looks like summer but smells of Christmas.  It is as it always was – little changed from the Ice Age to now.

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If you are lucky you may get the entire place to yourself, especially on a weekday and outside the tourist season. We didn’t. We met a father teaching his children how to fish for trout and a family allowing their three dogs have a swim in the lower lake. Hardly a traffic jam!!!

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After we took some pictures at the tranquil Lough Slat, we followed the road up to the Lough Caum Boardwalk loop, where we followed the “path” made from planks of timber all around the lake. On a slightly warmer day, this is a prime location to chill out with a book and a picnic. If you are in the neighbourhood, be sure to check it out. If you are from the neighbourhood, don’t be like us, make use of this fantastic amenity that we are blessed to live so close to.  xo

 

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5 things I like to do on a Summer Morning

Given that the next few months are largely devoid of any serious level of commitment or responsibility, I am enjoying waking at my leisure and easing myself into the day ahead gently. Here’s what a “typical” morning is starting to look like.

1. Coffee/Tea and a book.

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I wake pretty early, probably because the renovation budget has yet to stretch to curtains, so once the sun is up, the room is bright. But I am in no hurry to actually leave the cosy confines of the bed, so I generally pad downstairs in my bare feet, make a hot drink and cuddle back under the duvet to read a chapter or two of whatever I am currently enjoying. Of course if someone else is getting up to take the dog out, then I don’t even have to make the barefoot trek to the kitchen…. yes, I know I am spoiled. But don’t worry, coffee in bed comes with a healthy dollop of sarcasm (a small  price to pay!).

2. Some exercise.

If I am going to work out I like to do it pretty soon after getting up. Less time for excuses. Lately I am trying to get back into running, but as I am carrying a tag rugby related injury, I am taking things very slowly. TBH I am probably taking things far slower than necessary but this is in keeping with the leisurely zen persona I am currently channelling. I am using a C25K app on my phone to complete pretty gentle walk/run workouts. I find some fresh air and exercise first thing really clears the cobwebs and energises me for the day ahead.

3. Smoothies

I’ve always been a big fan of breakfast smoothies and lately I have been trying to lighten them up for summer by avoiding adding milk and yogurt. This morning I had banana, mango, kale and lemongrass.

I just added ice, water and a glass of pure apple juice to the fruit mix – it was really refreshing. I love when things actually taste good for you.  Makes me feel all virtuous.

4. Breakfast

More time allows for more effort, so for the most part I am currently avoiding cereal. It feels like the entire year is made up of bowls of porridge (which I tolerate) and bowls of granola (which I love) but at the moment I am trying to change it up a little, depending on what’s in the fridge. This morning I had Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with Yogurt and Strawberries. Delicious and so, so simple. Just take the Jamie Oliver approach – 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup self-raising flour, 1 egg.  Whisk and cook. I tossed in a handful of blueberries that were in the fridge and served with a side of strawberries and vanilla yogurt.

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5. Housework

Now anyone who knows me has now started to laugh and roll their eyes… because to say I am not into housework is a complete understatement. But it’s true, I currently start my day with a quick spot of cleaning. You see now that we live in a teeny house, with one bathroom and very small floor space, I find that giving the place a quick once over every morning is ideal to keep things under control. Then the dread of The Big Clean and the days (or weeks) of Big Clean related procrastination are unnecessary. Now I don’t exactly enjoy this part of the morning. But I do it. Before I even get dressed or put my make-up on!!! And it is strangely satisfying.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should acknowledge just how much the Dyson helps here. Formerly, I judged anyone sad enough to get excited over a hoover. I definitely judged anyone who paid as much for a hoover as they would a weekend in a 5 star hotel. But this cordless wonder will change your life! It is worth every single cent and more. A little bit of magic sent from whoever the real domestic goddess is. And it has already been used 100 times more than any vacuum I previously owned…. so on a cost per wear calculation it is positively cheap!!!!

So that’s a little window into my summer mornings. A little chilled, a little foodie and a little productive xo.

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Buying Bits and Bobs at Bloom 2017.

IMG_2824Bloom has been on my “to-visit” list for a number of years, mostly because Taste of Dublin has become an annual foodie pilgrimage for me and the two are so often compared. But having finally got to Bloom this Sunday, I really don’t see the two events as being in any way comparable. Taste is like a super fancy food court, where Bloom is more of a giant farmer’s market.

Bloom, ostensibly a gardening event, has evolved to become largely about the food. It is a space where Irish producers showcase their wares by way of free samples and discounted deals. And given that it is a Bord Bia sponsored event, you may argue that the gardening element is being somewhat overshadowed. But that’s just my opinion.

Anyway I went, I ate, I caught up with a good friend and I made a few purchases… here’s what I got.

Firstly I hit up the craft section, probably my favourite part of Bloom, and I had to show lots of restraint from the candle and ceramic temptation. I could not however resist a couple of Lainey K prints for my newly painted kitchen walls. I can see myself buying more from this quirky and fun designer; her products really suit my urban cottage(ish) aesthetic. I just popped them into simple, black frames from Søstrene Grene and watched them liven up my soft grey walls.

Continuing my search for some subtle pops of yellow, to enliven my grey and white kitchen, I bought some cute ceramics from Big Leap Designs, a Mayo company who hand decorate their tableware, and a delicious lemongrass candle from Emma’s All Natural Soy collection. I LOVE the scent and am so relieved that these are made so close to where I live, therefore repurchasing will be a doddle. People live in a world without fancy candles or pretty cushions, but can they really be happy there???

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Having sampled many, many variations of granola and more than a dozen jams and chutneys, I did also make a few food purchases. The first of these may yet frustrate me endlessly. I use a lot of stock when I am cooking, and always struggle with the absence of a quality, ready to use version (so common in other countries). This has left me crumbling my stock cube or dissolving a stock pot, head bowed in foodie shame. When suddenly, there it was…. the product of dreams…. Organic Chicken Broth from Sadie’s Kitchen. And then I cooked with it last night!!! Is it weird to fall in love with chicken stock??? Not with this one… it is UNREAL!!!!! And not available in Athlone (yep that’s where I live!!!). Trauma. But some research has taken place in the meantime and

IMG_2808I am hoping stockpiling (cringe at the pun) can happen in Horan’s Health Food Store, Tralee, when next I visit the family. Because I can no longer live without this product in my life… so much flavour, nothing nasty, a dream to use!!!! (Nope they are not paying me.) Yes it is possible to get this excited about stock!

And finally I picked up some fancy pesto and hummus. The samples tasted yum with crackers but when the pesto was heated with a little chicken, double cream, fresh tagliatelle and ground black pepper, the product really started to shine. The walnuts really add to the texture and it is a really delicious staple for a quick supper. And for the best bit…. they stock it in my local SuperValu.

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Now some of you may justifiably be thinking, is she ever going to mention the gardens. And to be honest, it might be better if I didn’t due to my lack of green fingers…or indeed a garden. But I did take a look (it felt rude not to) and overall I would say I was bemused. I know there is fashion in clothing – gingham, ruffles and asymmetric hemlines for example. And in food – avocado on toast, beetroot flavoured everything and added bloody protein (just eat a piece of cheese peeps!). I am even au fait with the current trends in interiors – chalk paint and filament exposed bulbs. But until Bloom I was completely unaware of how trend driven gardening clearly is. Flowers in fashion are wild and purple – lavender, elderflower, foxgloves… you get the idea. Stuff that grows on hedgerows. And it left all the gardens, to the completely untrained (and almost ignorant I admit) eye, looking exceptionally similar. Manicured lawns and perfect flower beds are clearly out; a controlled wilderness vibe is clearly in. It was fun to see but I expected so much more diversity. And please…. a piano in a garden….now that would never catch on in South Roscommon!!!!!!

So the verdict: I enjoyed Bloom. My new purchases are making me very happy. I would return. But the Chelsea Flower Show it ain’t.

 

Never Look A Gift Carrot…..

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Yesterday, I got a gift of a bag of carrots. Not just any carrots either but carrots from Clonown, famed in song and deemed to have properties that would put the most extraordinary superfood to shame. Chia, Maca,Wheatgrass or Kale have nothing on the humble Clonown carrot. Not convinced? You really need to have a listen to this ode to the indigenous orange vegetable – skin, hair, fertility or muscle mass issues- you name it the Clonown carrot can fix it.

So there I was, carrots in a plastic bag, fresh Clonown dirt still attached and the farmer driving out the gate oblivious to the mud dropping from the wellies. Now all that remained was to decide if I wanted them for “supper or tae!!” And what exactly to do with my “fine big juicy” specimens.

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Traditionally, a stew or casserole would be the obvious choice, especially in the week in which we celebrate all things Irish, but neither would be my dinner of choice, especially on a rare sunny day like today. So I raided the fridge, pulled out the food processor and decided to experiment a little. If Brendan Shine had come to dinner, I think he may have added another verse for “Clonown Carrot, Ginger and Coriander Salad with a hint of Chilli”. (It’s not too late Brendan, you could debut it in the Gleneagle this weekend!) It would make the perfect side dish for rural Roscommon farmers after a long day at the bog!  You heard it here first.

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Joking aside, it honestly is one of the nicest incarnations of the humble carrot I have tasted for a long time, although I do admit to feeling that carrots are a vegetable best served raw. Incidentally, an option the celebrated ballad overlooks entirely! Although to be fair, in the Ireland that the illustrious Mr. Shine was immortalising, vegetables were cooked, or more specifically boiled, until they were soft. The only way to overcook a vegetable was to boil it dry and ruin your pot. Once there was still water, they were still perfect! They did not have fresh chilli added – sure that would “roast the gob off ya” and coriander was but a twinkle in the eye of the Irish herb garden (then merely a parsley patch). So carrots were sliced and boiled and maybe mashed with a parsnip on a Sunday. Simple!!!

And this recipe (if you could even call it that) is equally simple but infinitely more nutritious and possibly even more delicious. Here it is…

Ingredients:

  • 4 Clonown Carrots (I am sure other carrots would work too)
  • A handful of fresh coriander
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger
  • A finely chopped red chilli
  • 2 spring onions (for garnish)
  • Irish rapeseed oil (extra virgin olive oil would be perfect)
  • Vinegar of choice (I used wild mountain thyme vinegar because I was lucky enough to have it – not very rural Clonown circa 1980 I grant you)
  • A pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper

Method:

Rinse, peel and grate the carrots (I used the food processor) and place them in a medium sized bowl. Grate in the ginger. Finely chop the coriander and chilli and add both to the carrot and ginger. Mix everything well.

Whisk up a dressing in a little bowl or jam jar. I just used two parts oil to one part vinegar and added some seasoning. Pour the dressing over the carrots and mix until everything is lightly coated with the dressing. Snip some spring onion over the top. Serve as a fresh and delicious side dish with chicken or fish.

I had this for dinner with a portion of The Little Green Spoon’s Chicken Tikka and her delicious It’s Always Sunny Quinoa (a favourite since this blog post). It was the perfect healthy mid-week supper or “tae”, as Brendan himself would say, and although intended only as a simple side, the fresh, local carrot salad kinda stole the show. Give it a go with whatever carrots are local to you… and don’t be afraid to write a song about it. xo

 

Celebrate Yourself….

“We can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.” (The Mill on the Floss)

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The classics can be a drag to read sometimes (and that sacrilegious declaration comes from a teacher of English) but they invariably conceal hidden diamonds in the rough rock, like the above kernel of wisdom from George Eliot. Eons before mindfulness was a thing, or wellness a cliché, Eliot realised that every now and then we need to actively search out the things that make us happy. Simple? Yes. So why in the mania that is modern life do we so often put our own happiness last?

I don’t really have the answer, but I do accept that sometimes only you can be the rainbow on your own cloudy day and, if it feels like the sun isn’t shining for you, maybe you need to take proactive steps to reverse the unwelcome climate change.

Personally,there was quite a lot of grey in the kaleidoscope of my life this past month. We are renovating a house we are living in – not for the lovers of luxury (or sanity) I can assure you – and there were evenings with no heat, walls with exposed wiring, more dust than you can imagine and not a floor to be seen that didn’t have a hole in it for some reason. This, combined with fairly miserable weather, spiralling costs and a workload that is barely sustainable, and you will see how the sunniest of dispositions could be a bit more muted than normal.

But with days lengthening, the chill in the air dissipating and life simply being too short for self-pity, there comes a time to take control and seek out the beauty and the light. A time to hunger after the beautiful and the good. So here’s a few options I am favouring to inject a little colour into the dusty reality that can sometimes settle just about everywhere.

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Take More Walks:

If the problem is the grimness of the four walls that are currently surrounding you – get out of the house and see the beauty that is everywhere. I know the walls won’t be bare forever, the new floors will be stunning soon, the kitchen will once again be my sanctuary, but in the meantime I need to remember that if I don’t love what is in my eye-line, then I can just avert my gaze. So I’ve been doing it, getting out more and seeing the beauty in the ordinary, the sensational in the simple and the little winks of wonder from a natural world awakening for winter and bursting into spring. Take a look…..

Pamper, pamper, pamper:

Do something just for you! Something relaxing, something fun, something a little self-indulgent. For me it was a morning at the hairdressers and, to be fair, it was well overdue. I have to say I chose well with this one. I was home in Kerry and decided to check out a salon I have liked the look of for ages and I was really not disappointed. From the cute decor, to the cupcake and coffee with vintage reading material, it was exactly what I was craving. The stylist was also lovely and my tired locks were rejuvenated just the way I wanted – a real success. A reason to smile.

Enjoy a Date Night:

My husband will cringe at the phrase…. but I am afraid that’s what it is when a couple venture out on their own to do something recreational together!!! It doesn’t really  matter what you do – it matters that you take the time to do it. Consume some art – a movie, a piece of theatre, a gallery visit. Drink a cocktail. Eat great food. Go to a gig. Basically whatever floats your boat. For us it has been a mixture of all of the above. Prior to Lent (weird Catholic self-deprivation ritual) there were some cocktails. Alternatively, there is always room in my world for dinner or lunch somewhere delicious. And, as we are currently booze free (more a personal than a religious penance tbh) and on a very tight budget, we are seeing some movies to unwind. Last week it was Loving (I think the trailer really has all the highlights of this one – although I did quite enjoy it) and tonight we are going to try Moonlight. Cheap cinema tickets and a tub of popcorn – remember it’s the simple things.

 

I guess the moral of today’s story is that it doesn’t matter what you do, but if you feel like you need to do something to inject some cheer into your soul – then do it. You deserve it. We all do. Anne Frank (who was scarily wise for one so young) said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I think we can paraphrase and revel in the reality that we need not wait a single moment to improve our own world, just for us, just because we are worth it. Find the light, see the beauty ..have a happy Sunday xo

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Sunday Night Meal Prep..

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The roller coaster that is healthy living seems to get derailed with frightening ease at times, especially if you head in to the week unprepared. Personally, I find that my most successful weeks always start with a disciplined, well planned Monday, but that in itself requires some Sunday pre-planning. And so here I am, on a chilly Sunday evening, trying to organise the perfect healthy Monday, when really I want to cuddle up with my book by the blazing fire.

For the last little while, I have been using the app 8fit (on a 30 day free trial) to help organise my eating and workouts, so I thought I would give you a sneak peak and share my plans for a healthy tomorrow.

Firstly, I start my day sipping some water on my way to the gym. As tomorrow is to be img_2305freezing, I don’t give myself time to think about things (i.e.press snooze and drift back to sleep), just set the alarm for 6.40am, dress in the dark in my work-out clothes that are lying by the bed, brush my teeth, grab my bag and go. The 8fit model  is based on daily (or as close to it as possible) short workouts, but to justify the trip to the gym, I either adjust them or do a couple of them together with some added cardio, whatever adds up to about 45 mins. I also did a couple of ‘at home workouts’ last week, but our beloved dog Herbie thinks it is a game and it all got a bit comical and slobbery…he’s not really ready for ‘yoga with your pet’ classes, and I am not really that kind of pet owner. Here’s a glimpse at my modified version of tomorrow’s workout:

Workout:

The actual workout is completely different every day, but tomorrow is:

  • Warm-up of 5 mins cardio, 30 secs fast feet, 10 arm rotations, 10 inch worms, clockwise and counter-clockwise leg circles and 45 secs of mountain climbers.
  • 4 sets of swimmers (45 secs) with a short rest in between.
  • 4 sets of push ups (45 secs) with a short rest in between.
  • 4 sets of mountain climbers (45 secs) with a short rest in between.
  • 4 sets of deep squats (45 secs)  with a short rest in between.
  • I then finish with another 10 minutes cardio on whatever machine I fancy and a couple of plank exercises.

After this I eat breakfast at work with a strong black coffee. Tomorrow’s option is Greek yogurt with blueberries, flaked almonds and always a drizzle of honey. This is usually enough for me, but if I am starving, I keep some of Lizi’s granola close by and I can sprinkle in a handful.

Lunch, and here is where the prep is vital, is all packed up and waiting just for a little re-heating. I need something quite substantial on a Monday, because I teach a sports class in the afternoon, and then have to take my best friend Herbie out, so it is my most active afternoon of the week. Tomorrow, lunch is a chicken faijta wrap.

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Ingredients:

  • Coconut oil
  • Free Range Chicken Breast
  • Half a red onion sliced
  • Sliced peppers (I use red and yellow)
  • A handful of sliced mushrooms.
  • Generous sprinkle of cajun seasoning
  • A handful of mixed leaves
  • A tablespoon of hummus

Method:

  • Melt the coconut oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken.
  • Add the red onion, peppers and mushrooms and fry until the chicken and the vegetables are cooked.
  • Season with the Cajun spices.
  • Add to a wrap spread with hummus and a handful of salad leaves.

I cook a big batch and pop it in Tupperware to use over a couple of days for lunch/ supper.

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After work, I wrap up warm and get some fresh air with the dog, before starting on the evening meal. I try to cook mid-week meals that work for the next day’s lunch so tomorrow, given that it is to be freezing, I have planned a beef and green bean stew. It’s healthy and full of veg, especially with a portion of steamed tender-stem broccoli on the side.

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I am not a big snacker, which may seem like a good thing, but I think it leads to wanting portions that are bigger than advisable. I am working on this, and have a plan to buy smaller plates in an effort to play tricks on my errant appetite. I drink a peppermint tea after dinner to aid digestion, and like a little dark chocolate for a treat.

Coffee is one of my big vices, so I am going to try and limit it at least a little more this week in order to up my currently paltry intake of water. So, with good intentions in place, shopping done and meal prep underway, I am hoping this will be a good week on the road to health and fitness. If more days could be like a well-organised Monday, and wine and pizza Fridays became a thing of the past, maybe just one year I would achieve those bikini body goals…..but man would I miss wine and pizza. And who could live a life without crisps??  xoxo

January Favourites

January can be quiet on the retail front, due to the financial incontinence of the festive season and some general January sales fatigue.  I hate rooting through racks and racks of sale stock, preferring my occasional shopping sprees to be a little easier on the eye. I am far more into a simple, clean aesthetic than having to search through the rubble of the previous season, frantically seeking a diamond in the rough. Therefore, I like to wait until the shops restock and reorganise and the sale racks are packed away again. This said I have still manged to uncover a few January favourites, and here are a selection of my top picks from the beginning of 2017:

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel

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I picked up a mini version of this cleanser in the Space NK January sale while I was in London. It was reduced by 50% due to the festive packaging (it was in a cracker), making it a bit of a steal at just £9. Although I was aware that this is a bit of a cult classic, especially among beauty bloggers, I knew very little about the product and had no idea what to expect. The product describes itself as “an illuminating vitamin melting cleanser” and to be fair, it does melt into the skin, before cleansing and illuminating it. In short, it does what it says on the tin!!

The cleansing gel is orange in colour, has a pleasant perfume and a little goes a long way. It looks very oily on application, and this alarmed me a little, as my skin can already be quite oily, but this was not an issue as the Oskia Renaissance cleans and moisturises without leaving any greasy residue or tacky sheen.

Using just one pump, I apply the cleanser to dry skin and massage it in for a minute or so. Generally, I leave it to work on the skin while I brush my teeth and then rinse it off, after jumping in the shower, using a facecloth soaked in warm water . Although it does dissolve make-up, I rarely use it to remove mine, preferring a different routine in the evening.

Overall this product, with its combination of ingredients like pumpkin enzymes, Vitamin C and E and Starflower Oil, is a beautiful cleanser that leaves the skin feeling soft and nourished. I will definitely repurchase this new favourite.

Kiehl’s Amino Acid Conditioner

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This, in my humble opinion, is a life-changing purchase!!!

Yes, I know it is just conditioner. Yes, I know it is not imperative to my survival. But OMG, this has made my life so much easier and sprinkled it with just a little extra happiness. I had heard Anna, from The Anna Edit, mention this product on her YouTube channel a few times, and so decided to pick up a travel size version in Selfridges. What a great decision. I genuinely noticed the difference instantly and just a few days later, I was splurging on the full size version in the Kiehl’s Duty Free Shop at Stansted Airport. It is so so so good.  I really didn’t know it was possible to feel so strongly about a hair care product but, given that I had started to really struggle with knotting ends, even with recently trimmed hair, I was crying out for something to help.  TBH I didn’t expect the results I got from this silicone-free daily conditioner, as years of blonde highlights tend to call for some strong chemical detangling, but just a little worked through the ends and, left for a couple of minutes, makes tough tangles a thing of the past. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

A Classic Blazer

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My next favourite for the beginning of the year is a fashion buy and it was a bit of an emergency purchase for a work event. This type of panic purchase does not always work out too well but this time I think the item is divine. It is this blush pink blazer from the new collection at River Island. It fits well, I love the ruched sleeve detail and the colour is on-trend as winter gives way to spring. I think it will get loads of wear both for work and leisure. I paired it with simple black skinny jeans, a vest top, heels and a little statement jewellery. Cute but classic.

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Generally, I make my own granola, but the oven situation in our new house is not great and so, until the kitchen refurb is complete, I am largely avoiding recipes requiring baking. fruit bowlHowever, granola with Greek yoghurt and berries is my favourite post-gym breakfast and so I had to seek out a good shop bought version. I opted for Lizi’s Original Granola which contains  Jumbo Rolled Oats, Cashew, Walnut and Hazelnut pieces, Pumpkin, Sunflower and Golden Linseeds, and Desiccated coconut. It is delicious, filling and releases energy slowly. I like it with a spoon of Total 0%, a drizzle of Agave and a sprinkling of fresh berries. Yum.

So, in a pretty frugal month, as pennies are pinched for the cosmetic overhaul of a kitchen, these were a few of my favourite purchases. And now for a few other bits and bobs…

At the beginning of the month, I really enjoyed the Will Smith movie, Collateral Beauty, which I thought was really under-rated by reviewers. Based on the premise that as humans “we long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death”, the film looks at what happens when death steals what is most precious from you, and love and time no longer seem to hold any appeal. This is a movie all about grief, and personally I thought it was sweet, sad and really tugged at the heart-strings. Now I just need to work on curtailing catatonic sobbing in public places when I watch something emotional  – a New Year’s Resolution perhaps!!!!

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We no longer own a television, and instead rely on YouTube and Netflix for our viewing choices, and so, this month, I really loved the relaxed vlogging style of the beautiful Estée Lalonde and some healthy living inspo from Niomi Smart. I have been listening to lots of Simon and Garfunkel Live in Central Park on our new record player. And finally, I am reading and enjoying a novel called Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller. And that’s a wrap for my January favourites 2017. Hope you are having a lovely beginning to the new year xo

 

 

 

P for Pilates (an activity obsessed with peeing)

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Apologies for the title. Generally it is very unlike me to resort to toilet references in my writing – despite my nearest and dearest loving a bit of rude humour – but my latest dalliance in the more meditative physical activities can only be comfortably reflected on through an ironic lens.

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Given that it is “Healthy January” (she types through a mouthful of crispy bacon sandwiched in a buttery English muffin) it seemed the ideal time to take up a new activity, and also get to hang out with a friend that I don’t usually see enough of. So a couple of evenings ago, off we went to the first night of a new Pilates course. It was intermediate level (a bit ambitious given that I can’t even figure out the breathing) and was in a lovely, welcoming studio with all the equipment provided.

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Now I am no stranger to exercise, but I have always lacked the subtlety for calm, precise activities, and I am definitely more suited to rugby than yoga. Can you see how Pilates may be a problem? On top of that, I am the world’s most competitive person when it comes to anything in the sports family, so when the person beside me (the type of person who has been doing three classes a week for the last 10 years) can stand on her head, I want to try it too – despite still not having a clue how to “find my centre” or “engage my core”. It’s not pretty – arms and legs everywhere and lots and lots of wobbling. And then there’s  a completely irrational desire to push over one of those perfectly centred people who look stunning in Lycra and seem tranquil in even the most awkward pose (when us normal people are concentrating so hard we look like we are trying really hard not to fart!!!)

And seriously what is with Pilates instructions? – “make your belly-button disappear” – given that it is attached to my belly, if I could make it disappear I can assure you I would not be bothering with Pilates!!! “Don’t let me see your ribs when you breathe” (Not such a problem, as I had forgotten I was supposed to be breathing at all in the effort to follow all the bizarre instructions) and the repeated mantra “imagine you are trying to stop yourself from peeing” – the very mention of the word making me petrified that I was going to lose all bladder control right there and then. Then there was this weird circle thing (see above), and you were to squeeze it very hard whilst panting like you were in an ante-natal class…and that was really bloody difficult (given that your butt was off the ground, you were squeezing a plastic ball between your thighs, a leg was in the air and you had completely forgotten how to breathe). And don’t get me started on the constant threat of mind-blowing foot cramp and the fear of public writhing and screaming….and this is supposed to be relaxing!!

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But the hour flew!!! And nobody died. And the very sweet instructor suggested that I practice at home (I think she knew I was really a beginner overestimating my abilities) and despite everything I enjoyed it. And I can definitely only improve. So back I go next week, to try harder to become centred, and not to feel I have to beat the girl beside me when it comes to holding the Pilates plank!! And learn how to “squeeze (still not sure what exactly) like you are trying to stop yourself peeing”. An invaluable life skill to master xo

What I eat in a day: the healthy version

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First off, to acknowledge the long, long time between posts and to commit to rectifying the situation. The lack of posts was not due to any loss of interest in the creative outlet that is blogging, but rather to a loss of the other vital component for any blog – an internet connection. Thankfully, having just moved house (not so I could blog – that would be a tad dramatic!) this situation appears to be rectified. And so, expect a return to regular updates on food, beauty, books, travel and, this year, lots and lots of interiors (because that’s what happens when you buy a 100 year old house that needs work!) But that is for another day…

Today, let’s focus on health and fitness. In a month of resolutions and restarts, today was a welcome return to a life more healthy, after a prolonged season of goodwill and excess (and for excess read chocolate, cheese, crusty bread and white wine). But let’s not dwell on that (for fear I am tempted by the remaining Cadbury’s selection box) and look at the daily diet of someone trying to be healthy (without being vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, dairy free, sugar free, or any other rigid diet that is very admirable but just not for me). For me, we are talking simple healthy choices  –  no chocolate for breakfast, ditch the white bread and not a a cracker with brie to be seen.

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So what did I eat in a day?

I started the day with a mug of warm water with lemon and a banana, eaten in the car on the way to the gym (she says with a hint of smugness). After my workout though, things got a little rushed and the planned breakfast to refuel was forgotten. In fact, two coffees (it’s an addiction you can read more about here) saw me through to lunch.  Not ideal I realise, but that’s just how things went today and I did regain a little ground with a super healthy lunch.

As part of a working lunch meeting, I had a meat free salad box from a local healthy cafe here in Athlone called Eat Unique, where salads are taken to a whole other level of deliciousness (and, let’s be honest, salad in January needs all the help it can get).  My box was made up of a selection of seven salads without even a hint of the ubiquitous limp lettuce leaf. The picture (which was taken by the cafe, not me, but I don’t think they’ll mind) gives you a pretty good idea of the amazing fresh and healthy selection to pick from.

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Throughout the day I sipped more water than usual, still nowhere near enough, but didn’t eat anything else until dinner. I didn’t even drink any more coffee!!!!

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And so to dinner… Cooking just for myself tonight, I chose a prawn stir-fry with rice noodles, adapted from Lean in 15. It was quick, simple and very tasty. It doesn’t really warrant a recipe but, if you want to give it a try, all I did was heat some coconut oil and saute whatever veg I had in the fridge. Today that was red onion, courgette, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, fresh chilli and garlic. When these had softened slightly, I tossed in some tiger prawns – I used cooked but raw would be even better. Then I drizzled the entire dish with a little light soy and sweet chilli sauce (naughty I know but not a super size Galaxy bar or two glasses of wine). I then added a liberal sprinkle of fresh coriander and served the dish with a small portion of rice noodles, keeping a second portion for tomorrow’s lunch.

winterA coffee after dinner and a peppermint tea before bed and that was a wrap. So there you have it…what I eat on a healthy day. More healthy ideas and recipes are definitely on the cards this month as part of “Operation Close the Button on my Jeans”. I hope your January is getting off to a resolute start too and that, whatever your goals are, you keep them in your sight.

‘Til Next Time xo

 

Eating Out and Staying Healthy(ish)

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Two fine days in a row – that almost constitutes a great summer in Ireland. With so few such days, it is important not to let them go to waste. As today was my parents 44th wedding anniversary we were taking a scenic road trip for a lunch on the water, but I still didn’t want to blow several days of good work on the healthy living front.

In order to minimise damage and still allow for a little indulgence, I got up pretty early and breakfasted on fresh fruit and black coffee. Then I took the dog on a pretty long walk and drank lots of chilled water before we took to the road.

The destination was The Boathouse, a Nantucket inspired seafood bistro, set right on the water, on the grounds of Dromquinna Manor, Kenmare. The estate which also has a glamping site and a hotel in the old manor house is incredibly picturesque. The decor in the bistro itself is bright, fun and nautical. Think lots of blue and white, with sail boats for decoration and little lighthouses on the table. The menu, as you would expect for the location, is predominantly seafood, but there is a chicken dish, steak and a burger, enough to keep the most committed carnivore happy. Although, when you can smell the sea and the menu guarantees local produce, seafood really is your best option.

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Arriving early and looking for just a light lunch, two of our group of four opted for the pier landed fish and chips main course. It came served on a kind of wooden tray and contained a generous potion of beer battered white fish. This was accompanied by chunky chips, a lightly dressed salad (with some delicious beetroot) and a little ramekin of mushy peas. The other two of us stuck to a combination of sides and starters (combined to make mains). There was a scallop and black pudding dish, which was unusual in presentation and possibly a little small for the price point. Although I didn’t taste it, it did seem to go down very well though, adding to the range of well executed dishes. Finally, I had tiger prawn pil pil. This consisted of prawns in a garlic, chilli and chorizo oil, served in a little pot accompanied by very tempting (although I did resist it) crusty white bread. It was delicious, although without the heat that you sometimes get in this dish, and I loved it. The prawns were fresh, pretty generous in quantity and perfectly cooked. The oil they were cooked in was extremely flavoursome despite the mildness of the chilli. I had this with a very generous portion of crispy sweet potato fries – a healthy(ish) indulgence (or so I like to tell myself) and a side salad. Prawns, salad and sweet potatoes – a decent attempt at staying on track on a special occasion.

After lunch and a stunning drive over Moll’s Gap and through Killarney National Park, I took another walk, this time on the local beach. It was great fun although paddling turned to splashing and rolled up jeans got soaked. And not long after it was time for a supermarket haul and thoughts of supper. After toying with the idea of creamy goat’s cheese, I reluctantly left it aside, favouring instead the warm saltiness of pan-fried halloumi laid on top of a crunchy bowl of baby spinach, rocket, watercress, red pepper and spring onion. All of this was drizzled with a homemade honey and wholegrain mustard dressing and accompanied by an organic rice cake with a little hummus.  Crunchy, salty, tangy, sweet and above all nutritious. So that’s me for today….pretty healthy and pretty happy xoxo