My October Favourites

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The river this November afternoon
Rests in an equipoise of sun and cloud:
A glooming light, a gleaming darkness shroud
Its passage. All seems tranquil, all in tune.” 
― Cecil Day-LewisThe Complete Poems of C. Day Lewis

Can it really be November already? Apparently so. But what a beautiful, calm entrance she has made here in Ireland. Days almost like summer, with a serene calmness in the air and not a hint of a breeze to disturb the russet carpet on the ground. Such days followed later by evenings arriving early, containing just a soft whisper of winter reminding us to light our stoves and boil the kettle for cups of steaming comfort. Transitional weather just doesn’t get any better than this.

But before a short digression becomes an entire weather themed sub-plot, back to the task at hand. A few of my October favourites.

  1. My favourite event: Mad Hatters Food Trail, Kinsale

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Regular readers of this blog will know that Taste of Dublin has long been my annual foodie event of choice. But suddenly the narrative reveals an unexpected twist as there has emerged a clear rival for the accolade of “Best Foodie Day Out” in Ireland, as decided by me.  After my maiden voyage to the Mad Hatter’s Food Trail in Kinsale I am torn, very torn, and that is high praise indeed. The day warrants a full post but I can’t quite stand over the accuracy of my memories, as this is really a booze tour masquerading as a foodie event. The need to queue for a drink at 11.30am and images of a packed nightclub by late afternoon are clear indicators of the type of day that you are in store for when you follow an Alice in Wonderland character down this particular rabbit hole…. but what a great day it is. It is little wonder that at a hefty €95 this event still sells out months in advance. The food was fabulous (I think!!), there was a never-ending supply of quality alcoholic tipples and the participants knew that donning novelty hats was a signal to leave your inhibitions at the door, accept that “we are all mad here” and allow things to unfold in a manner that grows “curiouser and curiouser”.  Sure they even have “your man Martin off the telly!!”   Take a look….

And yes there was food…

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It’s a really great day, in a really great town and has all the hallmarks of an annual pilgrimage. It made Keith Flyod fall in love with Kinsale…. and it’s easy to see why.

2.  My Favourite Make-UP Brand: NARS

Yes, I know that I am very new to this particular party but in an attempt to broaden my make-up horizons, I have been experimenting with some new brands and NARS is the one that is impressing me most. I have been using three products and while liking them all, it is the matte concealer that is really living up to the hype. I use the shade Custard which is a medium tone and I now I think I need two of these little beauties on repurchase day. A lighter one for under the eyes and the same medium shade again for blemishes. It is a true wonder product.

I also love the lipstick as it is not drying on the lips and the colour stays in place for hours. But tbh, despite this being a beautiful formula, I am not enough of a make-up gal to worry about my brand of lippy too much, or to regularly splurge on something I invariably break or lose, so this may or may not be bought again. The shade, for anyone interested, is Anna.

And finally the primer. I did really like this. I have almost completely used it up. I will definitely take a scissors to the tube just to ensure no precious product goes to waste but I am on the fence about restocking. It is exactly what I wanted but there is so little in the tube I feel I can’t justify making it an everyday primer. And I want an everyday primer. So here I am torn, on the fence, out with the jury, in two minds, hemming and hawing; you get the picture. I am contemplating an Urban Decay version for November – it looks to be more product at a similar price point – but currently I am at the stage of putting it on the back of my hand, nodding affirmatively and leaving the cosmetics hall paralysed by procrastination. These are big decisions, big decisions indeed.

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3. My Favourite Food Product:   Basil Pesto

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It has been a busy month – the lack of blog posts is a clear indicator of that. I am one of those lazy souls who can’t function tired…. so I need quick comfort food and very early nights. The kind of early nights toddlers get to enjoy. And I know I am not a two-year old but in my defense if I had the luxury of a nap in the afternoon I may stay up a little later. Anyway when things get a little hectic and the food needs to be fast but not a McDonalds, I find pesto to be a food hero. I just chop up lots of veg (generally mushrooms, yellow peppers, cherry tomato and courgette) and add them to a chicken breast that I fry off with a little garlic. Bung in the pesto with a dollop of creme fraiche to thin it out and serve over a little bowl of pasta shapes. Black pepper essential, parmesan an optional extra. Yum!!

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4. My Fashion Favourite: Knitwear

Specifically jumpers…..I love jumper weather. But currently I am loving one jumper in particular – the Zara “Blonde” jumper – don’t worry it comes in other hair colours too but mine’s a blonde. It is just so cozy – oversize, fun, soft and cute. Now that’s a lot of positive adjectives for one knitwear item but it is a jumper that brings a smile to my face. Poppy Deyes and Samantha Maria have also purchased this one, so it’s becoming a regular on Instagram already. I ordered online partly because the Zara Online packaging lifts my spirits. Clothing wrapped in pretty tissue paper and folded perfectly to fit the sturdy cardboard box – take note ASOS and others, this is packaging done right!! Unbox, unwrap and slip your arms into a virtual cuddle. If you can wear hygge, it feels like this sweater.

5. My Interiors Favourite: Ikea

I know, I know – it is mass produced, it is generic, it is devoid of character – but for interiors on a budget Ikea really is hard to beat. Now you have to accept that it is a marketing triumph, I mean I only went for a bookcase and look…..

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Where on earth was the bookcase supposed to fit??? There is no doubt that Ikea is the heroin of the impulse buying addict but if you just want simple furniture that you can style yourself, it is a winner. Simplicity and “quality” at an extremely affordable price point. My shelves, for an awkwardish space, cost about 50 quid. Add in a few accessories and it is exactly what I wanted. I would love bespoke furniture but for now unique is too expensive and so Ikea is my ideal Saturday afternoon destination. I mean €50…. and look how they turned out….. and all the other stuff in that trolley was entirely necessary too obvs….

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So there it is… some of the things I have been loving this October. I have high hopes for sober and sugar free November – where I will lose a half stone in time for Christmas. Lofty goals indeed. However, I am delaying the beginning of this virtuous life until Monday because I am currently on my hols and have a theatre evening with my mum and a girlie night away with my favourite bevvy of sisters to look forward to first. More to follow on all that….. xo

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Laughing with Lucy

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Relax, relax I did not just have a secret baby although one has just entered my life in a pretty major way. Six weeks ago my sister-in-law delivered to the world the most beautiful baby girl and little Lucy became a part of all our lives. She is adorable in her innocence and perfection, although the workload she has heaped upon her new mum and dad is pretty phenomenal.  While this is not totally unexpected, Lucy is a first child to her parents, a first grandchild to both sets of nanas and grandpas and a first niece to all the brothers and sister-in-laws, so you can well imagine both the excitement and the steepness of the learning curve.

IMG_0870Already I know we will not get to see her half enough, as she changes daily, and considering she is a six-week old, who can’t walk or talk, she still manages to brighten up the entire room with a smile. I am ridiculously excited that I get to be a godmother to this little treasure and in a strange but fabulous way it has made me stop and re-evaluate things a little. What values would I like her to see in me? Will I be the kind of role model she deserves? Will my husband and I be the kind of uncle and auntie she likes to hang out with? Pretty deep thoughts to be inspired by one so little.

But she is perfect, at least when she is not screaming the house down, and deserves a world full of people who want her to have a life of love and laughter. To paraphrase Sylvia Plath, a world where she experiences lullabies, colour, ducks and “the zoo of the new”. Things that teach her, entertain her, amuse her and help her grow into a fabulous little girl – which given how well I know her mum and dad, and seeing how they fell instantly in love with her, seems completely inevitable.

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And watching the new mum and dad develop into their new roles has been every bit as fascinating as watching Lucy take her place in the world.  They are phenomenal. It is probably the world’s most high pressured job and there is no option to clock out at the end of the day. Everything is new, everything is confusing and they are, I assume, terrified of getting anything even a little wrong in case it makes this child, now the most important thing in the world, even a little uncomfortable. But they just get on with it. In the sea of gifts and wrapping paper, pink dresses and babygros, visitors and cups of tea are three people learning to be a family. And from where I am standing, they are winning every day and Lucy is one very lucky little girl.

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Clowns, Candy Floss and Retro Charm

Few things roll in and out of a town with the speed and dexterity of a circus. It is almost as if it just appears, magically, in the night. Silently. Unnoticed. A giant tent erected by a team of fairytale characters who will remain only a little while, before trundling back out of town again under the cover of darkness. It is this mystique that surrounds the spectacle of the Big Top, that continues to lure me to the circus, even as an adult. And so yesterday, my brother and I took a step back into our childhood and spent an afternoon with the clowns and dare-devil performers of Circus Vegas.

Everything about the circus is sensuous. Smells, diverse and incongruous, mingle effortlessly together – the sweet melting sugar for candy floss, the salty deliciousness of popcorn, the strange sweetness of slightly damp sawdust and the farmyard musk of little circus ponies. Primary colours and bright lights illuminate thousands of sequins, as children wave fluorescent toys in a haze of giddy excitement. It would be so easy for it all to seem tacky – but this is the circus, so leave your inhibitions at the tarpaulin door please. This is no place for sophistication or pretension. Instead, expect cheesy music with an easy rhythm to clap along to, clowns blowing whistles and ringmasters with an exaggerated American drawl. It is wonderful in its excess and its predictability. It is the ultimate retro experience, that seems to have changed very little in decades, despite its place in a world that advances at break-neck speed.

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And then there are the performers…..the stars of the ring, the glittering diamonds of the circus tent.  To me this is where there is true artistry and genius. It is so close, so daring and yet almost invariably elegant.  Even the mistakes are graceful and there are always mistakes, another huge part of the vintage charm the circus holds.  E.E. Cummings once wrote, “Damn everything but the circus!. . .The average ‘painter’ ‘sculptor’ ‘poet’ ‘composer’ ‘playwright’ is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with a clown’s mouth, orchestrate twenty lions.”  Given that it is more than thirty years since my first circus experience, I of course remember when exotic animals took centre stage but I find the experience loses nothing and gains everything from their general omission in recent years. Because it is the tightrope walkers, the acrobats, the motorcycle riders in a wheel of death, and the fire jugglers that make the circus a really special afternoon’s entertainment.  Their form and grace, their sense of timing, their complete lack of fear amuses and amazes me every time.

I mean seriously – how long must it take to perfect tiptoeing across a tightrope?  It is that combination of practice and performance, talent and showmanship, concentration and charisma that will see me (and most likely my brother) remain fans of the magic of the Big Top throughout our lifetime.

So with or without a child to accompany you, the next time a red, white and blue tent appears to rise from the ashes of your town, pop in through the enchanted canvas door, suspend your disbelief and enjoy some true theatre from a ringside seat. Have a great day and look out for the clowns in your coffee xoxo

Cup, Coffee, Clown, Clown Face, Face, Circus, Foam

 

One Lovely Blog Award

Considering I had been letting the stress and strain of my daily life get the better of me for the last week or so and ignoring this blog completely, it was a fabulous surprise to log back in and find I was nominated for a “One Lovely Blog Award”, as you can see below. While blogging is very much a hobby and really just a little light relief for me, the idea that people I have never met pop by to read and enjoy it, was like a tiny ray of sunshine in my life! So a huge thank you to Mandy at The Mandy Diaries (a blogger who writes with such exceptional honesty it takes my breath away) for the nomination and don’t forget to check out her blog.

The award is a simple way of bloggers reaching out and celebrating each other’s work and as a real newbie to all this, the simplicity and positivity behind the idea encapsulates what I love about the blogging world. It is an award that come with rules, but they seem designed to simply spread positivity and give other writers a proverbial pat on the back. Now that is a game I am happy to play.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Thank the person that nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. List the rules.
  3. Display the award on your post of the award.
  4. List seven facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate 5 bloggers for this award and comment on one of their posts to let them know you have nominated them

So next up SEVEN facts about me:

  1. I am an Irish girl with a passion for travel.  I have been fortunate to see a lot of the world but bemoan daily the fact that there is simply too much world and too little time for all I want to discover.
  2. I am a secondary school teacher and LOVE what I do.  It is not without stress and some days are harder than others, but if you want a job that keeps you constantly on your toes, then work with teenagers.
  3. I am married to a man who grew up about 15 minutes away from me but who I only met when we were both adults and living on the opposite side of the world.
  4. As anyone who reads my blog will know I have a bit of an obsession with food.  I like to read about it, talk about it and shop for it every bit as much as I like to cook it or consume it.
  5. I have a mortal but soon to be conquered (I hope) fear of hosting dinner parties and yet I want to be the perfect dinner party hostess so badly!!!
  6. I read every day of my life. Books, poetry, newspapers, magazines, anything really. Words are as intrinsic to me as breathing. When I don’t find time for stories I don’t sleep as well, work as well or smile as often.
  7. There are many things I would do in my impossible future but one would be start an online bespoke travel agency where I would design personalised itineraries for city breaks – a bit like the NYT 36 hours in series but catered specifically to your taste, interests and budget.

And now for my five nominees:

Emma and the Beauty Blog

Anne Smiles

My Bitchy Resting Face

A Modern Mommy’s World

Cooking with a Wallflower

Take a look at what their lovely blogs have to offer.. have a great Monday xx

5 New Year’s Resolutions!

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Beginnings follow endings, as sure as day follows night.

That’s the thing we often forget about endings, that they inevitably open a new door and lead us in a new direction. There is such possibility in the start of anything – the first day of a New Year, the first page of a new notebook, the first words with a new acquaintance. That wonder that only the unknown can bring, that belief that perfection is attainable.

This sense of possibility is why despite a record blotted with failure, I love the concept of the resolution.  My glass half-full nature, allows me to completely disregard all evidence to the contrary and believe this year is the year that resolve will translate to reality.

So what are my 2016 resolutions?

And by writing them down am I more likely stop them disappearing down a rabbit hole, never to burrow their way back to the surface of my life.

My 5 New Years Resolutions:

  • Stop taking criticism personally.  Recently, I have realised that I take too many people’s opinions on-board and to heart, even if I don’t fundamentally accept them.  This year I am going to try and very clearly keep my eye on the line between the personal and the professional and trust my instincts a little more. I am determined to try to weigh up how important other people’s opinions are, or should be, with a little more objectivity. Hillary Clinton expressed my resolution better than I could, saying :

“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you. 

  • Exercise. Sport and general fitness has always had a huge role in my life.  I have played team sports to high levels, run a marathon and spent countless hours in countless classes.  This past year however, the lure of laziness was somehow irresistible. From tomorrow, that changes and 2016 will be more active.
  • Host a dinner party. I can cook, I may not be the most accomplished chef, but I tend to produce food that is non-fatal,edible, and on good days even tasty. More importantly, I love to cook. However, the very notion of cooking for other people makes me anxious, in a break out
    in a rash and turn into some slightly psychotic lunatic over the pattern on the plates kinda way. So I just avoid the neurosis by avoiding the situation. So my resolution –  before 365 days have elapsed, I will have invited friends for dinner.

  • Keep blogging.  Blogging is still a novelty to me. Although I have been a fan of blogs for a long time, the experience of writing myself was a new departure. It has been cathartic and rewarding, a pressure release valve at the end of stressful days. I may not have embarked on it without a little push, but I am resolved to stay committed to it for 2016.  Posting may not be daily but it will be regular.
  • Healthy Eating.  I love food.  Nutritious food. Junk food. Simple food. Fine dining. I like to read menus, hoard recipe books, read food blogs, wander around supermarkets, go out to eat, cook at home, discuss food, take pictures of food. You get the idea.  So I resolve to embrace what I love, but in a way that is good for me. Not obsessively or compulsively, but with a 60-40 balance at the very least. So expect to see some healthier, cleaned-up recipes on here in 2016.

So there it is, my great intentions for the year ahead.  I may or may not succeed, but I will at least try to take simple steps, that move me a little closer, to being a version of myself that I like the idea of.

And I suppose the most important thing about beginnings is understanding the need to let some things go.  Let go of fixed ideas, let go of bad habits, let go even sometimes of things you have loved.  Pablo Neruda, captured perfectly, how letting go and moving forward is not always easy but it is an inevitable part of the human condition.  Neruda says. “Love is so short, and oblivion so long”.  The phrase is equally apt if “Life” replaces “Love” in the line.  Life is so, so short. Never stop resolving to be who you really want to be and strive always to achieve whatever it is you dream of.  Just remember, that you can’t embrace the future, if you remain rooted immovably in the past xx

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her void. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, and oblivion so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

A Christmas Beauty Box!

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The concept of beauty boxes was new to me until very recently but this year I subscribed to Look Fantastic for some cosmetic treats to be delivered to the door.

The first delivery was the limited edition Christmas box and it was so much fun to receive this little parcel of surprises.  I love the packaging, and gingerly lifting the lid and opening the tissue paper to reveal the mystery loot, brought me lots of pleasure.

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As for the contents… Firstly there was a set of Eylure lashes, but as I already have both freakishly long lashes, and a notoriously poor ability to follow straight lines, I will seek another home for them.

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These aside, almost everything else in this little box of loveliness, will be put to good use.  Some have already begun their trial.

There is a Molton Brown shower gel and a hairbrush for wet hair, that is so soft it seems impossible that it could actually detangle, but it does!!! There is also a shimmering eye pencil, perfect for the party season.

And then to the real treasures buried in the trove.

Firstly, an Eve Lom morning cleanser.  Having used this in the shower for the last few days, I just adore how soft my skin feels after it, no easy task in the depths of winter.  Personally, despite it being almost Christmassy, I don’t love the aroma of this but it is a small price to pay. The product is paste-like in the tube, applies to the skin like an oil, but rinses off beautifully, leaving no greasy residue in its wake. I need to give it a few more uses but I am impressed so far.

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Finally, probably the most luxurious item in the beauty haul, was the Codage Paris Serum No. 3.  While this is beyond my regular skincare budget, I do find a little goes a long way and it is absorbing beautifully.

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All in all, I really enjoyed my first beauty box and very much look forward to more such wonderfully packaged surprises in the future.

Hope you had a similarly treat-filled Christmas Day xxxx

 

Bubbles and Brussel’s Sprouts

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Another Christmas Day has elapsed peacefully, surrounded by family and enough food to sustain a small country. We are recovering by sitting around in our PJs, sipping steaming mugs of coffee and watching retro cartoons.

Yesterday, I took responsibility for the pre-dinner aperitifs and I was so pleased with how my seasonal cocktail turned out.  Festive in taste and colour, it would be equally apt for a New Year’s Eve drinks gathering.   The recipe is from Nigella’s Christmas and is called Poinsettia.

Poinsettia

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of Champagne or Prosecco
  • Cointreau
  • Cranberry Juice (well chilled)
  • Fresh cranberries (for garnish)

Method:

Pour a bottle of whatever fizz you choose into a large jug.  Add a half a cup of Cointreau and two cups of cranberry juice.

Serve in champagne flutes with a couple of fresh cranberries for decoration.  Enjoy xx

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While most people have to engage with the challenge of cooking large quantities of food for entire families, I simply had to sip fizzy cocktails and watch my mother-in-law do most of the work.  I was, however, tasked with looking after the Brussels Sprouts and in a manner akin to Pheobe’s commitment to cups and ice in Friends, I wanted my sprouts to take centre stage.  And while they may not have quite overshadowed the festive poultry, they worked out very well.

Sumptuous Sprouts:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of sprouts
  • 5 Rashers of streaky bacon.
  • Butter
  • Black pepper
  • Half a cup of chicken stock .

Method:

Cook the bacon until it is crisp and set aside to cool. Remove the outer leaves of each sprout and shred/ grate them until they look like green ribbons. Cook the sprouts in the stock in a wide bottom pan, for about 5 minutes.  Keep the heat high to allow the stock to reduce. When the sprouts are slightly softened, remove them with a slotted spoon and discard any remaining stock.

Melt a generous knob of butter in the pan. Return the sprouts and season generously with black pepper. Crumble in the bacon and serve warm.

I enjoyed the melancholic sounds of the wonderful Sarah McLachlan whilst working on the lunch.  Wintersong is a personal favourite for this time of year.

The Emily Bronte poem, Love and Friendship, also feels very seasonal and conveys a strong message about the two titular concepts. Bronte considers the beauty of love, by comparing it to a wild rose.  And yet roses have thorns and love can hurt.  Love, she suggests, can also be a seasonal enough emotion and struggle to endure the difficulties of winter. Friendship however, the poem appears to suggest, can endure much more.  It is compared to holly, the festive bloom, that is characterised by beautiful red berries and extraordinary resilience. It is still there when summer roses have died. Friendship endures.  Prioritise it and it will get you through life’s darkest days.

Love and Friendship by Emily Bronte

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree —
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most contantly?
The wild-rose briar is sweet in the spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who wil call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He may still leave thy garland green.

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5 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep.

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O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my sense in forgetfulness?
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1

Shakespeare regularly knows exactly how I feel and can express it with far greater eloquence. And pleading with sleep, wondering what I did to offend it and wanting it to descend upon me, occupied far too many hours of my thoughts last night. But thankfully a night of insomnia, the kind of night where I toss and turn endlessly, is for me the exception as opposed to the rule.  And so not being able to sleep last night, led me to consider what I normally do to counteract insomnia.

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  1. Tea:   I sip chamomile tea as I am winding down and starting to think about bed. It is calming and hydrating and definitely helps me unwind.
  2. A cool environment:   I also turn off the heating so the room is warm but not too hot.  In warmer weather I often sleep with the window open slightly. I find a cooler room helps me sleep better, but whatever your preferences, at least make sure the temperature is comfortable for you.
  3. Ditch the screens:   I find that if I don’t look at my phone or laptop in bed, my unwinding process is far more effective.
  4. Read:   I read until my eyes won’t stay open any longer. Thankfully, this generally doesn’t take too long. I do find however, that some books are not conducive to falling asleep and so I avoid books that unnerve me in any way or are so exciting I don’t want to put them down.
  5. Routine:  I aim to go to bed at roughly the same time on weeknights and follow a similar bedtime routine. I like to go to bed about 10.30pm and wake naturally about 6.30am.

So these are my tips for a good night’s sleep.  Unfortunately last night I broke all the rules – think caffeine, alcohol, food too late, laptop in bed, no reading and a bedroom that was too stuffy.  The result was I lost count of the sheep long before I was able to unwind and doze off.

Tonight, I have learnt my lesson, so good night and sleep tight, it is time for me to turn off my screen.  But remember, “laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone”!!!!

Do we experience too much?

 

 

The Sunday Poem: Advent by Patrick Kavanagh

As always, I have a little poetic offering for Sunday morning, poetry perhaps being my personal form of prayer. As it is officially December, I have chosen Patrick Kavanagh’s poem Advent. A poem that brings me right back to my school days.

Kavanagh was a poet whose sense of place defined his work and whose writing was characterised by his love-hate relationship with his rural, Catholic upbringing, in the small village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan.  His genius lies in his ability to see the epic in the everyday, the magic in the mundane. This unique skill has rendered him one of Ireland’s most respected and revered poets.

The double sonnet Advent contains one of my favourite lines from all literature. The phrase “through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder”, possibly has even more relevance today than ever before. Is it possible that more we know or think we know, the less of our innocence and sense of wonder and awe we retain?  The world is at our fingertips now, gratification is rarely delayed, we see little value in denying ourselves the things we want.  This is, of course, not entirely a bad thing, but if “we have tested and tasted too much”, too soon, is it not harder to find things that take our breath away?

Kavanagh, I think, is encouraging us to simplify things a little.  We do not need more experiences, more possessions, even more knowledge.  In fact we need less, a little self-denial to reawaken the senses perhaps. A mini-lent before the excesses of Christmas.

I think his message is simple; recalibrate the way we view the world around us, simplify our lives, look at little harder to see the wonder and newness in the ordinary world around us.   Maybe we should all take Kavanagh’s advice this week and look for the mystical and the magical tucked away within the bits and pieces of the everyday.

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Advent by Patrick Kavanagh

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and please
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.

The Season to be Jolly…

My colleagues, among them some of my closest friends, seem to be embracing the festive season with exceptional zeal this year and are determined to drag me along kicking and screaming.  Their enthusiasm is as infectious as it is annoying and so I am reluctantly resigning myself to the idea that December is destined to be about all things festive.

Accepting what will not be ignored, I hung the novelty wreath on the front door (or my hubby did!) and strung up a few festive lights. I am still adamant it is too early for the tree, but it is a start.
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Never one for half measures, I then decided that a couple of festive touches each week might be fun. So this week, I am anxious to try this Mulled Apple Cider cocktail shared over on Cupcakes and Cashmere. It looks delicious, warming and very seasonal.

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I want to sip it snuggled in to one of these Christmas jumpers/ dresses (I am not a fan of the seasonal sweater so this is as close as it gets) with black skinny jeans or thick tights respectively and comfy ankle boots. Available here and here

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Image 4 of ASOS Christmas Jumper Dress with Embellished Stars

Ideally, I will be watching The Holiday, my favourite seasonal chick flick ever.  I love it!!!!!  Feel-good, mushy and lots of fun.

All accompanied by Champagne gummy bears – the perfect festive evening in!!!!!  What is your perfect way to spend a holiday evening at home?

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