Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Red string

Every time I use my small milk pan, for porridge or sterilising my moon cup, I remember:

A late night, everyone asleep but me.
Contractions moving my body, unable to lie still.
A sudden jolt of energy, remembering the last on my to-do labour list.
Downstairs in the kitchen, bare feet on the cold lino. Cutting three lengths of red cotton string.
String which held the full moon's energy, which bound the wrists of many women for mother blessings.
Red, the colour of strength, blood, fertility.
Plaiting the string into a foot-long band.
Placing it in the milk pan, between contractions making me lean over and grab the nearest support.
Boiling it for 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 minutes just to be sure.

Drying it on paper towels, putting it in a sandwich bag in the freezer.

Last thing done, free to birth now.

Upstairs for a long lonely night, just me and my baby, my baby and me.

Refusing all offers of comfort and support, wanting to do this alone.

As alone as I could do it.

The next morning between contractions, telling the bemused midwife about the alternative cord clamp in the freezer.

Her saying she had never seen it before, but she was sure we could make it work.

A party then, in the house, lots of voices, people awake, no longer just me and my baby.

Her entry into the world, witnessed by 3 others.

Her precious cord milked, the last of the blood back into her, it shown to me milky white.

The plastic bag opened, string tied once, twice, knotted so tight.

Cord cut, we were separate at once and forever.

Her lying on me, no hard cold clamp between us, just this string of strength, allowing us the maximum skin-to-skin for days.

Photos of this magic cord as it shrivelled up and died, to be lost in the bed, almost eaten by mistake by a bleary-eyed raisin-searching mama in the early hours.

To be thrown in the bin, it's use over. Not a memento, just a memory.

Baby born. First daughter after two sons. A precious gift of more female energy just when I needed it.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Adult ballet

I've returned to ballet after a gap of (-eek) 13 years!
When I left it I was the oldest, fattest and least flexible in my class of nubile school-leavers (I did a full-time dance course at the age of 26, daily ballet among other dance styles).

Not much has changed.
Though I'm no longer the oldest in my class, there is a lady who could be my mother at this particular studio, which really makes me feel ok about being 39 (-eek again!).

I haven't checked out the other dancer's flexibility / prowess yet, I was so self-involved and concentrated on remembering the steps I only had time to check out one other student.

This girl was poetry in motion, all long limbs moving perfectly, though she'd told me she was new to ballet too, maybe she did it in a past life, 'cuz in my eyes she was as good as the teacher.

Also this style is different to the ballet I studied before, subtle differences in technique. Which doesn't help when you're trying desperately to keep up and add legs, arms and head into a movement.

I'd asked to join the beginner class, because I really want to start from scratch again, but the teacher suggested beginner-intermediate, and the option to move down after a couple of classes. I like a challenge, but don't know yet if this is beyond me.

In the 8 days since the class (there was no class this week due to Paddy's day) I've been stretching and walking a lot, trying to regain my flexibility and cardio stamina. The last 9 years of babies / pregnancy / lactation plus pelvic organ prolapse and general couldn't-be-arsed-ness have really meant that my body is looking decidedly middle-aged. I want to look in the mirror and see a fit mom bod, and that is my goal this year before I turn 40. I figured if I don't do it now I never will.

Don't get me wrong, it was my birthday festival this week (yes... one day is not enough) and there was lots of cake, chocolate, take-aways, prosecco etc) so I'm not starving myself, just eating normally and upping my exercise.
I'm about 10lbs over my previous "fit" weight, and hope to get back to it slowly as I tone up. Today I walked home from town and I did a good walk yesterday, between both walks I covered nearly 11km.  If I did that once a week I'd be delighted.

I'm never going to run a marathon or even a 5k, I have no wish to be pounding pavements in the name of fitness. But show me some pink satin and a mirror and I'm all yours.

Childhood dreams still in the mix, and though I'm the mother now, I'm still allowing my inner child to follow her dreams. It's good for my head and my heart, literally and figuratively.
Are you a secret ballerina? Or a public one? Tell all please!

You're never too old to start.

Nee x

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tips for working from home

Many of you wonder-moms are juggling childcare with working from home too.
(I know many of you go out to work and someone else minds your kids for a while, and that has its own challenges, but in this post I'm talking to our sisters who work around their kids)
Like, literally, around their kids.

Maybe you paint at the kitchen table while your children eat their breakfast.
Maybe you crochet while you're in the car waiting at school gates.
Maybe you bake while they're in bed.
Maybe you write while the baby sleeps.
You step over to the laptop to check emails while your toddler watches Peppa Pig...

In my case, I type one-handed while my baby sleeps on my lap, or breastfeeds.

It's hard, right? Just as you get absorbed in a task, and actually get somewhere, somebody needs a drink, or their bum wiped, you are whooshed into the present moment and you lose your train of thought. That happens once every five minutes here.

I have learned a few tips and tricks in the last couple of years, first while studying, then while working around my children.

I've set up a new Youtube channel for The Wellness Clinic, and I'm posting some videos for female entrepreneurs, so check them out if you are considering a business. Whether a big or small one, my advice is "go for it!" if you are considering adding to your household income. You will only regret the things you didn't do, right?

So here's the first video, it's general advice about setting up your own business, and my top tips for covering all your bases as you begin your exciting journey.

The next one I made today as it struck me that how I dress really affects how I feel, and I wanted to pass that on. I don't think I could send work emails in my pjs. I just don't feel ready to face the world (even behind a screen) unless I'm looking presentable. For me that means dressed to shoes (thanks Flylady for that one!) with my hair and makeup done.

It's a big ask. And these days I'm working 7 days a week, so 7 days a week I get dressed, groomed and hit the computer or meet clients in person. I do relax until lunchtime a couple of days a week, but then I get dressed and start in on my ever-growing list of things that need doing. I'm loving it, so I'm not complaining at all, but it is a commitment.

So being dressed and feeling "ready" is key for me, and it's necessary in my line of work. Maybe yours is more casual, or you are less visible in the business, so you can do things differently. But I would suggest starting more formal, and relaxing as time goes on, as your first impressions really do count.

Here's the second video, if you like please "Like and Subscribe"!
If you have any suggestions please let me know,

Nee x

Sunday, 6 November 2016


Hi lovely readers,
I hope you are enjoying the colder season. It's only about 2 weeks since winter really hit Ireland, before that we were still able to leave our jackets at home. I've bought my annual tin of mixed spice (pumpkin spice to my US readers) and am adding it to all the home-bakes I make. It was especially good in the fruit compote I slow cooked yesterday: apples, bananas and spices with a knob of butter. No sugar needed as the slow-cooking brings out all the sweetness of the fruits.

So it's the season of warm food, warm socks, getting snuggly on the sofa with a movie. We watched Home Alone last night with a take away and my dh and I realised we are now totally identifying with the parents in that movie, not at all with poor Kevin. A sobering realisation indeed.

I'm parenting alone these days as dh is in work 6 day weeks all November. It's hard going staying sane, and trying to get anything productive done at the same time. Our little girl is 16 months old now, and in the destructive phase. Things get pulled apart, dropped on the floor and walked away from, all day long. The house is a constant mess, I am literally walking on eggshells in the kitchen, and trying to remind myself this phase will be over someday and I may miss it. Though I have a feeling that concept was dreamt up to stop mothers complaining and keep us in the guilt cycle...

We've decided she will be our last baby, and I'm really happy about that. This period of my life has been so intense, I've given it my all and enjoyed almost every minute of it, but I'm catching glimpses of the freedom I will have in the future and I'm eager to get into all the creative projects I want to, but can't at the moment. Three kids is plenty when you're home schooling, and I know I wouldn't have the energy to go through this crazy baby phase a fourth time. I am eager to get on with my own life too.

I'm still fielding questions as I sit on the toilet, getting no physical space at all, if one kid gets off my lap another one jumps on, and I've very little mental space to think and dream. I really miss daydreaming. Sometimes I'll realise I was just daydreaming as I am interrupted. The luxury of being able to think and spiral into thoughts is just that, a rare luxury. Being brought back to earth with a bump with "MamAAAA, he hit me!".

And work... Wow, I feel like I won the lottery. My work is everything I dreamed and more. I love that I created this job and it's totally the one I want. But snatching time to work during the busy lone-parenting days is nigh impossible. I've resorted to spending the one day dh has free in the week, alone with my laptop, trying to get as much done as possible for the coming week. I'm getting the hang of it. I used to work in the evenings, but I'm so tired everything takes twice as long. Or I go hang out at my parent's house where the kids play and we get fed and I can sit behind my laptop in relative peace. I got 4 hours solid work done like that last week and it was like 4 days, it was so productive.

So I'm a working mom again, a work-from-home mom too. I have no guilt about that. I am embracing it all with glee, as it's so good for my spirits. I feel challenged and enthusiastic about my work, and I've had amazing feedback from my clients, so I know I'm on the right path. I hope my kids will see this joy and grow up knowing that work doesn't have to be drudgery, it can be like playtime for adults too, if you get the right fit. My next URBANMAMA workshop for moms which is all about self-care is on Sunday 13th Nov in Dublin 8. This one is about the connection with what you eat and how you feel, and includes a food demo and confidence-building techniques about setting healthy boundaries for yourself,  here is the link. You get recipes and worksheets to bring home too.

I've really missed writing and I hope to do more with this blog in the coming weeks. I'm working on an ebook and also have started bullet journalling (love it!) so they are taking some time, but I miss blogging and the stream-of consciousness that goes with it. I can't handwrite as quick as I type so I rarely write my thoughts on paper any more, it gets frustrating.

What else... we had a lovely family week a couple of weeks ago, I took a week off work as did dh and we saw the sights of Dublin like tourists, ate out everyday and generally had a ball together. I use the sling all the time, we do have a buggy but there is no way I'd dream of using it at all to be honest, it's so bulky and hassle-y, and the baby needs to be near boobs at all times, so I'd probably end up wearing her in the sling and pushing the empty buggy. I just pack a nappy into my jacket pocket and away we go, I've two hands free to mind the older kids. It's so handy.

On the prolapse front, I had a bad week there a few weeks ago where I felt like I'd gone backwards in terms of healing. This happens every so often, I'm charting my symptoms and seeing a pattern. My period hasn't returned (it took 21 months both times before, so I'm expecting similar again) but I'm getting pmt once a month and cramps too. It's in sync with the moon cycle, and that's when I get the prolapse feelings too. I guess it's some kind of pelvic congestion or something, and have to research it more. That's what's holding up my prolapse ebook, I need to know exactly what's going on with me before I can finish the book, so it will be another month or so before I can publish it for you. I know there are readers out there waiting for it, so thank you for your patience and I promise it'll be worth it!

Ok, I have the house to myself so I'm going to get off the sofa, wash and dress and get some work done. I'm setting myself a challenge to do a certain amount in the time I have, then I know I can relax in the coming days and give my full attention to the kids. That's the theory anyway... unless I get a sudden hankering for another episode of Gilmore Girls and some of the Halloween stash of chocolate!

See you soon,
Nee x

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Calling all not-Supermoms!

Moms if you are tired trying to pretend you have it all sussed.
If you are sick of having to juggle it all.
If you are stressed out every day and get sick as soon as you take a holiday,
URBANMAMA is for you.
This is a coming together of like-minded women who want to make a change, or lots of changes.

I have devised this programme to take you step-by-step to a simpler, more authentic life.

Easier dinners, inspiring you to eat well every day.
Sleep strategies, helping you sleep sounder, waking refreshed.
Exercise tips and yoga class, stretching those tired limbs, feeling energised.
Stress management techniques, from journalling to therapy, with mindfulness and boundary-setting thrown in, we will look at it all.

I will help you prioritise what changes YOU need to make in your life, right now.
I will give you tools to make those changes.

And it will continue in an online group so you can check in with us as you integrate these new habits.

You do it in your own time, in your own way.
Check out the website here for the full information and tickets, there are still a few places left.

It is happening in Dublin now, but coming to Wexford, Galway, Limerick, Cork and wherever else you want it! Email me at niamh (at) if you want it in your area.

And for those outside Ireland it will be online as a course in early 2017, so watch this space!

URBANMAMA - empowering you

Nee xx

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Starting a business

Hi everyone,

Thank you for your continued support, I see you've been checking the blog and interacting with me on social media, but you haven't been rewarded with a blog post in ages, so here it is with my apologies for the delay. I'm going to talk about launching my new baby The Wellness Clinic, as this has been consuming every waking moment for the last while. Maybe some of you have start-up businesses or are thinking of starting up, so I hope you get some inspiration here. Or if you are just wanting to know where the hell I was read on...

I have had a huge month, a great month. I launched my nutrition service The Wellness Clinic and have been working with some private clients both in person in my holistic centre, and via Skype. These clients came through word-of-mouth which is going to be my main source of referrals I think. People want a recommendation, and to know the person they are going to see is trustworthy especially when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

While seeing the clients I was setting up all my systems of paperwork, record-keeping, contracts etc so there was so much administration as well as client hours. It was brilliant to finally get working with clients and I realised this is my dream job, I love the detective work as I analyse someone's habits, and I love helping them tweak them to make healthier choices. A week or two into my clinic I began seeing clients in a holistic centre in Dublin City.

The room I have is perfect for my needs and is a good central location. I like that it is also handy for me to drive or get the bus to, minimising my commute as the baby still wants mama as much as possible.
I finished and launched my website online here if you want to take a look. I finished and launched my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for The Wellness Clinic too. On Instagram I've a hashtag on the go every weekend where I share wellness tips on Instagram, it's #wellweekend if you want to follow and upload your own well weekend pics. On my Facebook page here I have daily self-care tips for busy mamas, so please "Like" that and you will get them. They're all things I learned myself the hard way and want to pass on. My Twitter handle is _thewellnessclinic

I also created my first group workshop Urbanmama and launched the event online, tickets are available on my website on the relevant page, and sponsors are already sending lovely things for the goody bags. This will be on Sunday October 23rd and is a day-long event for women to learn self-care tools. There will be yoga, nutrition and wellness presentation, mindfulness, food demonstrations and tastings, a delicious healthy lunch. Ladies will leave with goody bags containing self-care items and a printed wellness pack with all the notes and recipes from the day's talks and classes. This will be a monthly event and I can't wait to get it started!

Last week I exhibited at a local health fair, which was a great networking experience. I spent the week beforehand finishing up my printed materials, banner, signs, business cards and recipe/wellness cards, and baking up a storm to hand out tasters. My theme was "Skip the Sugar" and nearly everyone I spoke to said how sugar is a major downfall in their diets, so I'm glad I was on track with that one.

The back of my head at front right. Can you tell I'd been wearing a hat?!

I attended my first networking talk with the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) last night, which I subsequently joined and will attend their talks and events. The speaker was really motivational and just sharing ideas with the other ladies there gave me some valuable insights. There was tea and coffee, artisan sandwiches and a glass of wine afterwards which made the event really welcoming. I hope to get to know the ladies there and make some great contacts in all areas of business, you never know what you'll learn from people.

I have been booked for some talks in my local community as a result of the health fair so I am working on my presentations for them. I will be giving a talk in City Hall at the Over 55s showcase in a couple of weeks, so I'm theming a talk for nutrition for that age group, with recipes and wellness cards too, which need researching, design and printing.

I'm sponsoring some recipe cards to go in goody bags for an upcoming conference in the maternity sector which will be a good way to get my name out there, so they are being designed and printed soon. I am possibly doing a food demo at a baby fair in the next month, so I'm planning for that and will be showcasing easy baby led weaning foods and healthy snacks for mamas and children to make and enjoy together.

Wow, when I see it all written down, it's huge! I'm sure in a few months I'll be ticking along at a slower pace, but for now it's the season of new beginnings and I'm trying to take all opportunities that come my way.

My husband had the last month off work so I made sure to be as productive as possible in that window. I had a lot of the above work in motion, but I really concentrated on it when he was around. We did still enjoy family time, and had some fantastic fun-filled days out to places of Irish heritage, i.e. Kildare heritage festival, the Hill of Tara, Abbeyleix Vintage Toy Exhibition, a day on the Dart from Greystones to Malahide... The baby girl is walking but still in the sling and I'm loving the cuddles :)

I had my hair cut into a short bob and woah, was it short. I've never had the wind whistle round the back of my neck like that. It's regrowing and I'm nearly happy with the length again, but I needed a good chop as the self-cut layers just had to go. I'm painting my nails constantly now and feel they are a little reminder to take care of myself. I went on a bit of a shopping spree and now have a new capsule wardrobe for work which I will try to photograph for another blog post.

It is hard going back to work after 5 years at home. Things have changed. Social media is a great way to market yourself, but it's all new to me. The last time I had a boss and colleagues was 9 years ago as I was self-employed after that. I do miss the camaraderie of having colleagues, so this time around even though I am self-employed again I am making sure to have a network around me.

The Women in Business network (LEO) will give me at least monthly check-ins with other businesswomen in Dublin. I am beginning a series of "Start your own business" talks this week which are run by Dublin City Council once a week. Although I have a clear idea of my business model I am still lacking skills in marketing, finances etc so I am looking forward to these.

While I was in training I reached out to a businesswoman I really admire in the U.S. called Sheree Clark. Her company Fork in the Road is very inspirational to me and I am now glad to say I count her as a friend and mentor. I think this is key for me so I stay motivated. It can be a lonely road working for yourself and Sheree has been very generous with her support. I am also in a closed Facebook group of Irish nutritional professionals and I find that invaluable for ideas, support and advice too.

It's not all work around here though. I am trying to keep a balance of social and spiritual time for myself. I am trying to keep up with my friendships in real life too, seeing friends with my children for playdates, or meetings of my women's circle which are either on the Full or New moon each month. These are quite spiritual gatherings and I love the bonds we are forming. We have begun to introduce creative meetings of this Red Tent, the last meeting was in my holistic centre and we painted and drew, inspired by Lucy Pearse's book The Rainbow Way.

I am watching the Great British Bake Off for light entertainment each Wednesday with my family, I bake some healthy-ish treats and we cuddle up and watch it all together. I get together with my neighbours and watch Poldark on Sundays too, which involves cake again, it's all about the cake!

Home educating began in earnest in mid-August with new workbooks, new online programmes (Khan Academy) and Daddy got the kids off to a great start. Now my dh is back in work I am taking the mornings to bring the kids out in the fresh air, autumn walks, museums, creative centres etc, and the afternoons will be at home so I can do my admin work while they read, draw or play. I would rather get my work done in the morning and be free for the rest of the day, but the kid's friends are in school, so it makes more sense to get out with kids during that time, so they can be home for playing in the neighbourhood from 3pm onwards.

Evenings are when I see clients / take Skype appointments and go to my talks. I do find my head is buzzing still at 10pm, so I stay up late watching Friends reruns and having a cuppa with my dh and usually hit the hay around midnight/1am. I sleep in with the baby until dh leaves for work about 9am, so I am getting enough sleep, but I know I need to get to bed earlier in general.

That's how I'm juggling it all at the moment. It is a juggle though, and I'm conscious that I can't do everything. So apart from preparing healthy meals and laundry, I'm not doing any other housework. Dh does the kitchen every day and cleans the whole house about once a week, but I'm dreaming of a cleaner in the long run.

Tonight's dinner was really tasty and took all of 15 mins prep time not including cooking. At 4pm I spent maybe 10 mins chopping veg and threw it into the slow cooker with some butter and salt to roast. I used a small pumpkin, aubergine, onion, garlic (left whole), broccoli and mushrooms -the last of the organic veg before I go shopping tomorrow. Roasted them on high until about 6pm when I boiled a bag of brown rice pasta (more nutrition and less stodge than wheat), stirred through some Sacla tomato pesto, grated cheese in the processor and that was it. Delicious and enough left over for tomorrow's lunch.

Ok I'm  breaking all my own rules here about being on a screen in bed so I will take my leave. Lovely to be back blogging and I hope to meet some of you in person at the Wear a Hug Fair.

Nee x

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Using Turmeric

Mango muffins with turmeric
I've written before about turmeric, its health-giving qualities, and how I use it at home. From medicine if we are sick, a paste to treat a skin infection, to a flavouring and colouring, it is a fantastically versatile spice and one I wouldn't be without. I buy it in bulk ground, though you can get the pure root (like ginger), which needs peeling and grating before use, that's just too much work for me at the minute.

Apart from adding a half-teaspoon to our smoothies, I've used it in some different ways which you may like to hear about. Above are my own recipe mango muffins, with turmeric as an addition, giving a great vibrant yellow colour to them. In them are oats, spelt flour, 2 eggs, some sour cow's milk, butter, pre-soaked mango (from a bag of dried mango), cinnamon, salt, a little honey and baking powder.

Above is a lentil curry with lemon rice - basmati cooked as normal, then with butter, lemon juice and turmeric added to give it an amazing taste and more health benefits. This began as a slow-cooked vegetable casserole one day, to which I added curry spices and lentils the next day and just chopped in spinach for the last minute of cooking. I love my two-day dinners and always make them differently. My picky 5 year old just eats the rice, so I'm happier giving him lemon rice with all the added nutrition than plain old basmati.

For my son's recent 5th birthday I kneaded turmeric into white icing for the yellow beak for his Angry Bird's cake (a chocolate paleo cake with chocolate ganache - sounds nicer than it tasted). So no yellow food colouring was needed but I still got a great yellow effect. The black was liquorice and the red was a jelly sweet. Blue was shop-bought fondant.

I also make a turmeric tea with boiling water, turmeric, honey and a little milk and cinnamon, it's really soothing on the tummy if someone feels like they have a bug, and a great detoxer for the liver if you feel you've overdone it. Nice before bedtime too. I recommend it as a kitchen staple to my nutrition clients, it's a wonder spice!

How do you use turmeric in your household?

Nee x