A fond farewell

My final day at home is here and there’s little more to do than pack my life away into a couple of suitcases before heading to the mainland tomorrow afternoon. Wee buns, eh what? Hmm…

My last few days at home have been a real treat. I’ve managed to see lots of friends, meeting for coffees and drinks – a great opportunity to catch up and say ‘So long (for now)’ properly. A less positive experience for my liver and sleep patterns but totally worth it nonetheless!

Not looking too shabby, considering it's kicking out time!

Not looking too shabby, considering it’s kicking out time!

Last night, I got a great offer on tickets for a satirical review show of 2013 which was on at the Lyric Theatre in town. It covered everything from ‘fleg’ protests to politicians not declaring expenses and other discrepancies to planning permission and the peace process. It was entirely NI-focused so those not from these shores would probably have missed the local humour. You’ll just have to take my word for it: it was brilliant! It was the perfect final dose of Norn Iron wit I needed to last until I’m next home for a visit. If you’re a local to these parts the show’s running for another few days. Use the promo code ‘Hangover’ when you’re booking your seat to get a 2 for 1 deal if the offer’s still on.

I’ll leave you with a little video from the Forget Turkey cast, aptly entitled Interested in working in the media?

Notepad at the ready – I need all the tips I can get! 😉

A very Merry (handmade) Christmas

I’ve been a little quiet since my post-a-day challenge – my apologies. Things have gradually become more manic with the impending festivities just around the corner and a pretty big leak in our roof needing urgent attention.

I decided to do something a bit different this year and make the majority of my Christmas presents for friends and family. A while ago I shared a post about making your own liqueurs as gifts, which you can read here. If you gave it a go they are just about ready to gift or sample, depending on how generous you are feeling!

While I was visiting one of my favourite spots recently I picked up a great book full of hints and tips on how to make everything from beauty products to jams and even medicinal remedies, (although I’m not giving up ibuprofen just yet.)

Bargain!

Bargain!

One of the recipes in it was for some lovely strawberry and cream bath soaks – who doesn’t love a soak in a hot bath? I decided to make this for friends who have been working tirelessly, raising money for some very deserving charities. I hope they’ll get the chance to relax and enjoy them after the Christmas rush is over! Here’s how I made them:

Strawberries and Cream Bath Soak

You will need the following:

* 1/2 cup / 60g oats (regular or quick-cook)
* 1/2 cup / 50g milk powder
* 40g ground almonds
* 16 – 20 drops strawberry essential oil (I added more to get a stronger scent, customise it to your own tastes and remember – a little goes a long way!)

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Method:

* In a small bowl combine the oats, almonds, milk powder and your essential oil. Stir well to make sure it’s well mixed. Close your eyes and take a deep breath – are you at Wimbledon enjoying a cream tea and a glass of Pimms? No? Then add more of your essential oil. Stir.

* Divide the mixture among pretty cloth bags. I chose to use organza favour bags I got in Tesco. They sell them in bags of 3 for £1.50. Fill about half full and close using the drawstring on the bag. If there isn’t one you can gather the material and twist it round, securing with a festive piece of ribbon. I managed to fill around 2 bags with this amount so adjust accordingly.

* I added a muslin bag to each of my gift bags. I got these off Ebay for around £5 for 10 bags. When you fancy a soak in the tub simply fill the muslin bag with around 2 dessert spoonfuls of your mixture and tie. Hang it on the end of the running tap of your bath and let it all infuse and you’re all set for a relaxing bath! The bags can be reused as many times as you like, just empty and hand wash with soap and warm water after your bath and leave to air dry.

* Keep your bath soaks in a cool dark place until you are ready to use them.

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A few notes…

* Obviously this is not for human consumption, regardless of how delicious it smells.

* The oatmeal mixture is designed to sooth stressed and dry skin and can relieve itching. However, some skin types may become mildly irritated by the essential oil. You can reduce the amount of essential oil you add or eliminate it completely. It obviously won’t have the fruity scent in this instance but won’t stop you making like Cleopatra and enjoying a milk bath.

* These bath soaks are best enjoyed with emails unchecked and phones switched off. The world can wait. Just relaaaaaaaax.

Reclaiming Monday!

Urgh. Mondays are the worst. Not content with ruining the start of your week they steal part of your Sunday night filling you with dread at what might already await you in your inbox the following morning. Or in my case what doesn’t await you. What a shitter. Here is a nice picture to sweeten the crappiness of Mo(a)nday:

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But what if Mondays didn’t have to signal the beginning of the end? What if they could be the beginning of something great? My friend Mairead is bit of a wise one. We went for coffee yesterday – I drink a lot of coffee! – and she let me pick her brain about moving to London, which she herself did. She asked me a very simple question: What do you want to do? I prattled on about lots of different things and it turns out I want to do EVERYTHING! When I was wee I was the same. My dream jobs varied from hairdresser to astronaut, wildlife camera(wo)man to musician to high powered business owner. Not a lot has changed. However, thanks to a few disastrous hair experiments I carried out on my friends in Uni – sorry Manus… and Jenny… and Laura…and Sophie…ok, you get the picture! – I think it’s safe to say I can put the notion of becoming a hairdresser to bed. As for astronaut, well that’s another sorry tale! Failing astrophysics not once but TWICE at Uni put paid to that. (FYI it was a module for Arts students and I was more captivated by the tutor’s impressive beard than the science of the stars. Incidentally he showed us MANY pictures of the aurora borealis in lectures yet no pictures appeared in the exam. I felt cheated.)

I digress. Stay with me. Here’s another picture to keep you going:

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When I was wee I was a real daddy’s girl. My dad was pretty cool. You’ll have to take my word for it. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. I wanted to do a job that touched my soul and allowed me to be creative. I wanted a career I could be passionate about and proud of. (Don’t we all?!)

What a dude!

What a dude!

My dad was a musician and a composer who chased his dreams and did a job he loved, even though the work wasn’t always in plentiful supply. I postponed the life I wanted to go to Uni – which I loved – thinking that I could pick it back up when I came out the other side. Sadly my lovely dad passed away just before my finals and by the time I graduated the recession hit. Doom and gloom all round. I panicked and took the first job I was lucky to get and put my dreams to one side. A couple of years later I got itchy feet and switched to a career in the charity sector where I’ve stayed ever since. The problem with pushing things to the far corners of your mind is that they always resurface until you deal with them in one way or another. After listening to me prattle on in a million and one directions Mairead told me this: I talk about the things I want to do but I really need to start talking about what I am going to do. I need to stop talking myself down from acting and doing the things I really want: “Be the master of your Universe. Make things happen,” she said. She’s a clever one, that Mairead.

So what has all this got to do with Mondays? Well, what if we made Monday the day to start moving our lives towards the ones we always wanted? Mairead sent me a link to video of a TED talk last night that dealt with the top 5 regrets of the dying. I’ll share it will you here sometime, tomorrow maybe. Among the list people regretted not living the life they wanted, worrying about what other people thought of them and working too hard. Why don’t we use today to take stock while we have the chance? Let’s start a Monday revolution and turn this once loathed day of the week into one to look forward to! Let’s make Monday a day where we promise to do at least one thing that will inch us ever closer to the life we want over the life we have. Today’s post is my first step.

I’d love to hear any tips you have for making Mondays that little bit better! Have you made any changes recently to make your life the way you want it? Feel free to follow and comment on my blog. It’s always nice to hear what other people are up to and since I started my blog back in June I’ve learned about lots of things I would have otherwise missed out on so thank you to everyone who got in touch or liked a post.

Oh, and one more thing…

Escape to the country (in the heart of East Belfast)

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Since my friends have started having beautiful, squishy babies we don’t get to catch up as often as we used to so today when I met up with my friend Catherine we were able to kill two birds with one stone. As the nights begin to draw in earlier we are determined to at least try and stay healthy this Winter. With this in mind we ventured to Tommy Patton Park in the heart of East Belfast for a run around and a natter.

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Hej då Stockholm: memories of a great trip

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Cast your minds back a couple of weeks if you will and you’ll recall I was getting ready to make my merry way to Stockholm for a real life adventure with some dear friends. We came, we saw, we ate cake, we danced.

The first thing that struck me about Stockholm was the high percentage of beautiful people just wandering about the place with the rest of us mere mortals. There’s definitely something in the air in this city that makes its inhabitants glow from the inside out. Everyone seems totally chilled out and content. In contrast to most of the major cities I have visited folk here seem willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in most circumstances. For example, we ended up somehow getting the wrong tram ticket on Sunday morning but rather than throw us off in the middle of nowhere the conductor just told us to look out for the right ticket next time and with a smile he was on his way. No snide remarks, no furrowed brow, just a small gesture of human kindness.

The second thing to note is the food. The Swedish take food very seriously and rightly so. It, like everything else in Sweden, costs a bloody fortune so if you are planning to lose some weight I suggest you head there for a detox. At the beginning of our trip, when we were still feeling flush, we treated ourselves to some cake in the Old Town. If you like your cream with a side of cake I recommend you try some colourful Princess Cake – a delightfully heady mix of sponge, raspberry jam, crème patissiere and cream held together by a thin layer of green marzipan. If spice is more your thing try a cardamom bun for something a little different. The coffee shop we visited was amazing, it’s pictured below and you can find it in the square close the Nobel Museum.

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While taking a boat tour of the archipelago we were wowed by the breathtaking scenery en route to the various islands. Bordering the water, in between the homes of the super rich and embassies, were trees in every shade of autumn bursting with life. Nordic walkers and runners pounded the manmade pavements fuelling the theory that nature in the city adds to the wellbeing of the people who live there. Our trip to Skansen, (Sweden’s outdoor museum), certainly made us feel pretty good.

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If you are making a trip to the city I would whole heartedly recommend you pencil in a visit to Skansen. It was among the cheaper days out we enjoyed with admission costing around £10 each (amazingly, this is cheap for Stockholm!) and is a popular spot with families and locals. We missed a bit of a trick here as those in the know brought food to cook over the fire pits so bear it in mind if you are planning a future visit! We only spent a short while there but you could easily spend a full day wandering about and enjoying the fresh air. You can buy coffee and food there but service is very slow so best to start queuing up before the hunger pangs hit! It’s a brilliant spot for big kids like us as well as wee ones and is an ideal place to introduce them to the natural world and the importance of its preservation.

Next up we went to the ABBA museum. Feel free to judge us for we care not. They say you walk in and dance out and this was definitely true in our case. It’s on the pricey side at around £19.50 per person but my advice is to go along and get stuck in with all the interactive opportunities on offer. I wouldn’t class myself as an überfan or anything but I’m not ashamed to admit I had the time of my life as I bopped my way round the exhibition. It’s only been open for a few months and is very popular so, if you can, book your tickets online in advance. We tried to go on Saturday only to discover they were sold out for the rest of the afternoon and had to book for Sunday morning. And don’t bother bringing cash to the museum. You won’t be able to spend it. It’s the first cashless museum of its kind with ideas of starting a cashless revolution. The band members explain that cash is the root of so many of the world’s problems – theft, drug addiction etc. They believe that without cash the world will be a better place and I have to say, although initially sceptical, I bought into the idea by the end of my visit. Pardon the dreadfully placed pun.

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As you can see we embraced the interactive elements on offer and tried our hand at pretty much everything from making a music video to karaoke to disco dancing and even taking to the stage. It was hilarious and we came out grinning and on a high. If you are a serious fan then the museum is a must see. There is a costume exhibition, a studio, lots of videos and quizzes if you don’t fancy unleashing your inner Agnetha. If you do fancy yourself as a star make sure you keep hold of your ticket as you’ll need this to retrieve footage of your performances from the website. These will be stored for 30 days online but you can download them if you want to hold onto them for longer. We couldn’t resist the chance to ‘perform’ with the band. Presenting the 5th, 6th and, partially hidden behind a hologram of Anni Frid, 7th members of ABBA…

All in all our trip was full of laughter and putting the world to rights over a few drinks. Only a few mind you. Alcohol is even more extortionately priced than food. If you haven’t been to beautiful Stockholm it’s definitely worth a trip – start saving!